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Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman visits with people attending a Democratic Party event in Harmony, Pa. on Mar. 4, 2022.Keith Srakocic / AP file

Fetterman’s campaign trail return comes amid big ad spending lead

The Democratic Senate nominee is holding his first rally of the general election campaign since suffering a stroke in May.


Pennsylvania Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman will return to the campaign trail Friday, having already carved out an advantage in ad spending so far in the Senate race. 

Fetterman is holding his first campaign rally in Erie, Pa., since suffering a stroke in May. While his GOP opponent, Republican celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, has been holding campaign events, it’s Fetterman who has dominated the ad wars so far even as he’s been absent from the campaign trail.   

Since the May 17 primary, Fetterman’s campaign has spent $4.4 million on TV and digital ads, per the ad tracking firm AdImpact. Oz’s own campaign has spent just $17,000 on digital ads, but his campaign did launch a joint $999,000 ad buy with the National Republican Senatorial Committee. 

Fetterman’s messaging so far has stressed his biography. His latest ad is a minute-long spot starts with Fetterman losing his best friend in a car crash, which spurred him to pursue public service. 

“John Fetterman turned his loss into a lesson that no one deserves to be written off,” a narrator says in the ad. “That’s a lesson they need to learn in Washington.”

Oz, meanwhile, teamed up for the NRSC with an ad focused on immigration policy and crime, knocking Fetterman’s support for so-called sanctuary cities. 

Outside groups have also jumped into the race, and Democrats have also had an advantage there as well, spending $4.4 million so far to Republicans’ nearly $3.5 million. But that spending is expected to ramp up ahead of November. Just this week the GOP super PAC Senate Leadership Fund announced this week it is planning to spend an additional $9.5 million in the state.

The race is shaping up to be one of the most expensive in the country. In September, when ad spending typically spikes, Democrats have reserved a combined $39.6 million through Election Day, while Republicans have reserved a combined $31.9 million, per AdImpact.