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Fetterman, Oz debate highlights partisan divides

Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz faced off Tuesday night in the only televised debate of the Pennsylvania Senate race.
Democratic Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman  and Republican Pennsylvania candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz debate.
Democratic Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Republican Pennsylvania candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz participate in the Nexstar Pennsylvania Senate Debate in Harrisburg, Pa., on Oct. 25, 2022.Greg Nash / The Hill via NewsNation

If it’s WEDNESDAY… Dem John Fetterman struggles in PA-SEN debate five months after his stroke, Republican Mehmet Oz struggles on abortion… Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and GOP challenger Tudor Dixon clash over abortion in MI-GOV debate… NBC’s Garrett Haake and Kyle Stewart wrap last night’s CO-SEN debate… Sen. Rick Scott’s NRSC reenters NH-SEN, per NBC’s Ryan Nobles and Julia Jester… And President Biden meets with Israel’s president at 12:45 pm ET and then holds virtual events in the evening for Reps. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, and members of Nevada’s congressional delegation.

But FIRST... Most partisans — though not all of them — will stick with their party’s nominee during the roughest of times.

We’re now witnessing it after last night’s Senate debate in Pennsylvania, where Democrat John Fetterman struggled mightily in his debate against Mehmet Oz, raising questions about his health, and failing to put to bed questions about whether he’s been transparent enough throughout the process. 

The early reaction is that Fetterman’s party and supporters are sticking with him, drawing attention instead to Oz’s own debate struggles on those abortion questions. 

Fetterman’s campaign also announced raising more than $1 million in three hours after the debate. 

Bottom line: It’s very possible that many are overstating the importance of last night’s debate, with partisans having already made up their minds — no matter the performance. 

But it’s also possible that last night’s performance wasn’t meaningless, either. 

In our polarized — and hyper-competitive elections — every vote from every constituency matters (including those who skip voting or split their votes). 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 65%

That’s the share of registered Republicans in the latest NBC News poll who believe President Joe Biden’s 2020 election was not legitimate. Just 22% say it was legitimate. 

A sizable majority of independents — 74% — and 100% of Democrats believe Biden was legitimately elected. The share of independents who say Biden’s election was legitimate rose from 62% in Jan. 2021, but Democrats and Republicans’ views were largely unchanged. 

Election skepticism was strongest among demographic groups that typically vote Republican, with just 22% of white evangelicals, 34% of rural voters and 43% of white working-class voters believing Biden’s win was legitimate.

Read more on the Meet the Press Blog

Other numbers to know

97: The number of people who have been killed in school shootings in America since 2013, per an NBC News tracker.  

68: The age of the late former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who passed away Monday evening

$18 million: How much money President Biden is directing to the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees, $10 million in a transfer, and $8 million through fundraising, per CNN.   

10: The number of ratings changes The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter made to their House rankings. 

$6 million: That’s how much GOP groups aligned with the Senate Leadership Fund are adding in ad spending to Pennsylvania’s Senate race, per Politico. 

22: The number of Black candidates running for higher office who could make history on election night, per NBC News’ Char Adams. 

Over 1 million: How many people have already voted early in Georgia, putting the state on track to surpass its 2018 turnout, per the Atlanta Journal Constitution. 

Midterm roundup: Bolduc’s bailout

Just days after the GOP-aligned Senate Leadership Fund pulled its ad spending out of New Hampshire, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is going back in with a joint television buy with retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, the party’s nominee. 

NBC News’ Ryan Nobles and Julia Jester report that when the NRSC originally pulled its own New Hampshire spending just weeks ago, it did so because groups like SLF were still playing there. But now that SLF has pulled out, it decided it was worth spending there. 

Bolduc had been seen as the weaker of the two top candidates in the state’s GOP primary, and his victory prompted many to wonder whether he could still keep the purple state (and key state on the presidential nominating calendar) competitive. 

In a statement, NRSC Chairman Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., told NBC News he believes the race is “winnable.” 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail…

Georgia Senate: Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock campaigned with fellow Sen. Jon Ossoff Tuesday, trying to recapture the enthusiasm that helped them both win their seats last cycle. 

North Carolina Senate: A new Marist poll found a tight race in North Carolina, with GOP Rep. Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley both at 44%, and 10% of registered voters undecided. Beasley also picked up an endorsement from former President Barack Obama.

Nevada Senate/Nevada governor: A new Univision News poll shows races for governor and Senate well within the margin of error, but Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak leading with registered Hispanic voters by more than 30 percentage points. 

Washington Senate: Democrats are boosting their spending in Washington’s Senate race as Democratic Sen. Patty Murray faces a competitive challenge from Republican Tiffany Smiley, per Politico.

Michigan governor: Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican nominee Tudor Dixon clashed over inflation, abortion and state taxes at their second and final debate last night. Dixon is going up with her first TV buy of the general election, more than $800,000 per AdImpact. 

New York governor: After Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin sparred in a debate last night, Hochul’s campaign launched a new TV ad this morning tying Zeldin to former president Doanld Trump.

Alaska At-Large: Friends and former staffers who worked for the late GOP Rep. Don Young penned an op-edbacking Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola. 

New York-17: NBC News’ Scott Wong explores the new salvo in the fight for the House — the fight for Democratic New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s re-election. New filings last night also show VoteVets is spending more than $1 million to help Maloney. 

California-26: Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley is adding another $336,000 to her TV spending through the end of the month, per AdImpact. 

California-47: The GOP-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund is spending another $1.35 million through the end of the month in the race to knock off Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, per AdImpact. 

Ad watch: Running against Sen. Grassley

In a new TV ad, Democratic Senate nominee Mike Franken highlights Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley’s age and position on abortion.

Though the ad doesn’t explicitly give Grassley’s age, which is 89, a narrator in the ad says, “63 years in office attacking women’s rights,” highlighting how long Grassley has been in elected office.

Then, the ad ticks through a timeline of instances when Grassley voted against abortion rights or took a position against birth control. “Now he wants to let politicians ban abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest or to save a woman’s life,” the narrator says near the end of the ad.

Franken is running in a closer-than-expected race against Grassley, but The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter rates the race Likely Republican.

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world 

Hope Hicks, who once served as a top advisor to former President Donald Trump, interviewed with the House Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday

At an event, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said that the leaked opinion to overturn Roe that was made public in May made some justices “’targets for assassination.”