Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

When politicians play pundit, it rarely reflects well on them. Which makes what happened Thursday, when Senator Chuck Schumer of New York was caught on a hot microphone assessing the Democrats’ chances of retaining power, such an anomaly.

His comments, made while greeting President Biden on the tarmac at Hancock International Airport in Syracuse, were mostly positive, talking up his party’s fortunes. The remarks ricocheted around social media on an otherwise slow political news day — and not to his, or his party’s, detriment.

“It looks like the debate didn’t hurt us too much in Pennsylvania as of today,” Mr. Schumer, the majority leader, can be heard telling Mr. Biden, his former Senate colleague. “So that’s good.”

The comments came two days after an uneven performance by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania, in the state’s lone debate for that position. Mr. Fetterman had a serious stroke in late May, and deals with auditory processing issues. He has been making steady progress, he has said, but continues to see a speech therapist.

“To be honest, doing that debate wasn’t exactly easy,” Mr. Fetterman said Wednesday, before a friendly crowd of more than 3,000 people in Pittsburgh. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy after, you know, having a stroke after five months.”

Mr. Fetterman’s campaign has seized on remarks on abortion made during the debate by his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who said that he wanted women, doctors and local political leaders “to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Schumer issued a statement calling Dr. Oz’s comments “a devastating mistake” that would help Mr. Fetterman win. Mr. Fetterman’s campaign said on Wednesday that it had raised more than $2 million in the immediate aftermath of the debate.

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During his conversation Thursday with Mr. Biden, Mr. Schumer also forecast other hotly contested Senate races. Democrats are defending vulnerable incumbents in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire, while the seat in Pennsylvania is held by Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican who is retiring. Republicans need to pick up just one Senate seat to retake the majority.

“I think we’re picking up steam in Nevada,” Mr. Schumer said, continuing: “The state where we’re going downhill is Georgia. It’s hard to believe that they will go for Herschel Walker.”

Mr. Schumer also observed that the early turnout in Georgia was “huge.”

Strategists in both parties have long expected the races to tighten as voters began paying closer attention as Election Day approached. Each of the “core four” races — as Democrats call their incumbents’ re-election bids — is, along with Pennsylvania, essentially a tossup.

But to the surprise of some Democrats, Mr. Walker, a former football star who became the Republican nominee despite the private doubts of party leaders, has weathered a barrage of stories about his personal life. Since late August, Democratic groups have spent millions highlighting Mr. Walker’s past.

On Thursday, a second woman came forward to accuse Mr. Walker — who is running as an abortion opponent — of pressuring her to have an abortion. The New York Times has not confirmed her account, and Mr. Walker has denied the accounts of both women.

Democrats cautioned that Mr. Schumer’s remarks did not necessarily represent a definitive statement on the election. A spokesman for his Senate office said Mr. Schumer “believes the Democratic candidates will win.”

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