During the 2022 Senate race in Pennsylvania, Sam DeMarco spoke candidly about Democrat John Fetterman: He told him “fraud” and “human destruction“whose”awakened liberal policies” would endanger Pennsylvanians.
DeMarco is chairman of the Republican Party in Allegheny County, where Fetterman, now a senator, lives. At the time, he denounced Fetterman as someone who continued to find.a way to fail upwards” and was questioned how could any “sane” person vote for him.
But that was over a year ago. Now, DeMarco has a strange new respect for the senator, which he sees as a pleasant surprise.
“A lot of that surprised me, huh?” DeMarco told NBC News that Fetterman’s voting record still leaves a lot to be desired for conservatives. “I never expected him to take the positions he has on the issues that he has.”
It’s made headlines for Fetterman in recent weeks Provides comprehensive support to Israelhis warnings and efforts regarding the flow of migrants Remove Senator Bob Menendez from Congress among charges of bribery and other wrongdoing and even his pushing back against the rules regarding Zynthe new popular nicotine pouch that has become a staple of conservative internet culture.
All of these moves have distanced Fetterman, a former supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy, from the left himself “not progressive.”
Late last month, Fetterman’s video went viral waving the Israeli flag from its roof DeMarco in pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside his home near Pittsburgh he tweeted: “Jesus, this guy makes me respect him! “I never thought this would happen.”
DeMarco is hardly alone. In recent weeks, people at all levels of the conservative movement — from online influencers to U.S. senators — have suddenly found more to like in Congressman Fetterman, who many expected to be on the left flank of his party.
“I’m shocked,” said a Republican operative who works on Senate races. “I thought he would be the exact opposite and hate it.”
The right sees Fetterman as its new favorite Democrat because he has alienated his one-time allies on the left, who see what he’s doing now as anywhere from disillusionment to betrayal. Fetterman’s unexpectedly vocal approach to several cultural issues has the potential not only to forge new coalitions in the Senate but also to shape critical state elections this fall, as he offers a natural contrast to now-Senator Bob Casey. , D-Pa., is up for re-election in a critical battleground state.
A quick search on X shows dozens, if not hundreds, of tweets tagging it as “.Based on Fetterman,” an expression of wealth on the right. A prominent conservative who once called Fetterman’s views “terrible” has spoken out recently About “I’ve never been more wrong about a politician in my life.”
Conservative commentator Dave Reaboi, who is a supporter of Ron DeSantis, wrote that Fetterman was actually “Trump’s friend Dr. He’s puzzled over things that Oz would be terrible at.” is calling Republican Mehmet Oz, who lost to Fetterman in 2022.
Speaking to NBC News, Reaboi said warnings from some conservatives not to make “too much” of Fetterman’s rhetoric will ultimately “break our hearts.”
“He was brave enough to come out and speak out and be good on some of these big issues,” she said. “We definitely have to give him an attaboy and put it in the context of who we might have in that seat. You know, it’s not bad.”
Fetterman embraces the newfound appreciation. Last week, he attended a Washington Press Club Foundation luncheon as a guest of the Washington Examiner, a conservative publication. And he made a surprise appearance at a birthday party for Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala. As written in X.
“People on both sides of the aisle thought they had John locked up in a certain way. It was interesting to watch people on both sides realize they were wrong. Some people are angry about it, some people are happy about it,” said Adam Gentleson, Fetterman’s chief of staff. “If people are pleasantly surprised to learn that John is not the hard-left socialist he was portrayed as during the campaign, then maybe this is an opportunity to work together and get some things done.”
And the opportunity arose. Fetterman said he spoke with Republicans about their shared belief in tougher border and asylum laws as the Senate passes legislation that includes new immigration provisions. And Republicans say he helps their prospects get a legislative deal by brushing off left-wing suggestions that the legislation is xenophobic.
“I don’t think it’s his philosophy, it’s just his independence,” said RN.D. “It seems that he is not connected to any club. This is proven by his clothing and behavior. So I’m surprised, but when I think about it, I probably shouldn’t be.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said of the 6-foot-8 Fetterman: “In my respect, he’s getting bigger and bigger. He is already quite a tall boy.”
Fetterman He did not give an inch to Israel and upset leftist allies who sometimes sounded too conservative. But the positions he and his allies took on Israel in his last campaign, as well as his years of moving away from the progressive label, prove that this was no sudden evolution. Fetterman has not moved away from the left-wing economic policies he campaigned on.
Melissa Byrne, a progressive organizer and former Sanders campaign consultant, isn’t surprised. He wrote Fetterman, then lieutenant governor, raising the alarm about Fetterman during the 2022 Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania. changes who is “every round”. Then it was called “The”. comes second” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., a former Democrat who left the party last year.
Byrne said Fetterman’s moderate stance after aligning with the left created “alienation” and “distrust of government” with key voting groups.
“It’s confusing,” he said, taking particular issue with how Fetterman treated others, whether they were protesters who opposed his stance on Israel or Democratic officials who didn’t see eye-to-eye.
A big part of Fetterman’s successful 2022 campaign bid was his mastery of social media strategy, particularly internet trolling — even after he was sidelined for months due to a serious stroke. Now he calls his party members, including Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and California Governor Gavin Newsom.
“People remember how you made them feel,” Byrne said. “And going into an election year in a swing state, he alienates all these people doing the grunt work of knocking on doors and making phone calls, ‘owning the libs’ or ‘owning the left’ and just trolling… eh? How is that useful?”
Fetterman was surprised by her reaction rejecting the progressive label in December. While social media channels were abuzz with users pointing to examples of his self-identification as a progressive ahead of the 2020 election, he began backing away from the label as he began his run for Senate. one April 2021 interview “I don’t know if I consider myself a progressive,” he said at his home in Braddock, near Pittsburgh.
Centleson argued that the comparisons to Manchin and Sinema fall flat because Fetterman “will always stick to his guns when it comes to economic populism.” Fetterman in recent weeks promised to block A union between US Steel and a Japanese steelmaker expressed solidarity with striking newsroom workers and sent a fundraising email mocking Republicans for opposing a bill to expand the child tax credit. He is an outspoken supporter of raising the federal minimum wage, even if it means eliminating the filibuster to achieve it. During his first year in office, Fetterman has a voting record suitable for most of the party.
There is no obvious political reason for Reaboi to take the positions that Fetterman does.
“I don’t think it counts. I don’t think it’s positioning,” he said, adding, “People don’t know what to do with this guy.”
Many conservatives have speculated, without any evidence, that Fetterman’s outspokenness on several issues was the result of his stroke. or the month and a half he spent He said he came after a health scare to be treated for clinical depression at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington.
Centleson offered a different explanation, pointing out that Fetterman grew up in York, Pennsylvania — a persistently red part of the state — with a family full of Republicans.
With Pennsylvania poised to play a key role in the battles for control of both the Senate and the White House, Republicans said they could draw any contrast with Casey, who looks set to face Republican Dave with Fetterman’s stance on key issues. McCormick. Even if Casey and Fetterman align, Fetterman’s outspokenness could be weaponized against Casey, who is in his third term, though it’s too early to say whether Republicans will put any money on highlighting such antagonism.
“If you go back to early 2023 and say, ‘Who’s going to be the more moderate senator from Pennsylvania, Bob Casey or John Fetterman?’ I don’t think people are going to say John Fetterman,” said a second Republican operative who works on Senate races.
Fetterman the hair performed better More than President Joe Biden among Pennsylvania Republicans in 2022 It did in 2020but even some of his new fans say they won’t have their votes when he goes to the next election in 2028.
“I don’t think we agree on about 60% of the issues, but at least he’s not acting completely irrational,” said Joey Mannarino, a pro-Trump internet personality from Pennsylvania. “Now, the fact that he knows that Pennsylvania is more swing than people want to believe? Of course. But I actually think he’s a relatively sensitive person on some issues. However, he will never get my vote.”