Pennsylvania’s Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman will defeat Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz in a pivotal Senate race that could prove a decisive blow in the battle for control of the upper chamber of Congress, NBC News projects.
With 90% of the vote counted, Fetterman led Oz 49.4% to 48.1%, a margin of about 66,000 votes, according to NBC.Fetterman will succeed retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, moving a Republican-held Senate seat into Democratic hands.
Democrats, who held the slimmest-possible Senate majority heading into Election Day, were banking on flipping the seat in the key swing state, where President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump two years earlier.The projected verdict deals another blow to Trump, who backed Oz in a hard-fought GOP primary election and campaigned for him in the general.
“It’s official. I will be the next U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania,” Fetterman tweeted early Wednesday morning.
“We bet on the people of Pennsylvania – and you didn’t let us down,” Fetterman’s tweet said.
Oz, a celebrity doctor who had invested millions of dollars of his own money in his first campaign for elected office, trailed Fetterman in the polls throughout the race — even after a stroke took the Democratic nominee off the trail for three months.
A wealthy TV host who lived in New Jersey until a year before launching his campaign, Oz had struggled to shake off accusations of being an out-of-touch carpetbagger with little connection to the Keystone State.
Polls showed Oz making gains in the final weeks of the race, as his campaign bombarded Fetterman with accusations of being soft on crime and too far left for Pennsylvania. But Oz still held high unfavorability ratings heading into Election Day.
Before midnight on Tuesday, Oz told a crowd of his supporters that “when all the ballots are counted, we believe we will win this race.”
A spokeswoman for Oz did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on NBC’s projection.
“I’m so humbled. Thank you so much, really,” Fetterman said in a victory speech.
“We launched this campaign almost two years ago, and we had our slogan, it’s on every one of those signs right now — every county, every vote,” he said. “And that’s exactly what happened. We jammed them up.”
Fetterman in the speech acknowledged the life-threatening stroke he suffered in May, just before he won the Democratic primary. The stroke grew into a major focus of the campaign, as Oz and his allies questioned whether Fetterman was healthy enough to serve in the Senate.
Fetterman’s doctor said he expected the lieutenant governor to be able to work without restrictions, while noting he is experiencing lingering auditory processing issues. But Fetterman’s health challenges were on full display in late October during his one debate with Oz, when the Democrat showed great difficulty forming complete sentences and providing full responses.
His campaign, Fetterman said at the end of that debate, is “all about fighting for anyone in Pennsylvania that ever got knocked down and had to get back up again.”