WASHINGTON — Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) said a rematch between President Joe Biden and Donald Trump in the 2024 election in Pennsylvania would be “closer” than some might expect, though he still believes Biden holds an edge in the hypothetical contest.
The freshman Democratic senator addressed the race for the GOP nomination, Trump, and life in the Senate since his bout with depression in a rare sit-down with reporters in his congressional office on Monday.
“Donald Trump can’t beat President Biden in Pennsylvania but, assuming it will be President Trump, it’s going to be closer,” Fetterman said of the current Republican presidential front-runner.
“Trump has to perform above his ceiling,” he explained, adding that the former president is still very popular in the state. “You still see Trump signs everywhere in Pennsylvania, and you have to respect Trump’s strength.”
Trump won Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes in 2016 by a narrow margin but lost the state resoundingly to Biden in 2020. Democrats are looking to repeat that kind of performance next year, especially with blue-collar voters in deep-red counties.
Fetterman said no other GOP presidential candidate stands a better chance against Biden than Trump, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. He cast DeSantis as extreme, citing his staunch anti-abortion stance and his focus on waging culture wars, including over transgender rights.
“There’s no way Ron DeSantis could win Pennsylvania,” the senator said. “Watching DeSantis turn into [former Wisconsin Gov. and 2016 GOP presidential candidate] Scott Walker and get liquidated by Trump’s machine, I respect Trump in terms of how formidable he would be in Pennsylvania.”
Fetterman spoke with the help of an iPad that transcribed the conversation with Capitol Hill reporters in real time, helping compensate for auditory processing difficulties caused by his stroke over a year ago.
The Pennsylvania Democrat seems to be taking his own approach to life in the Senate after being hospitalized for depression. He often eschews suits in favor of shorts and a hoodie on his way to Senate votes, though, given the warm summer months, he has traded in the hoodie for a short-sleeve, button-down shirt.
Monday’s sit-down seemed to mark a shift in Fetterman’s media strategy. Embracing conversations with reporters, both in formal settings and in more informal interactions in the Senate hallways, is something he hasn’t done much before.