A former top aide to first lady Jill Biden criticized Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs of Arizona for her decision to avoid debating her GOP opponent in a tweet Tuesday evening.
Michael LaRosa, who departed the White House for a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm in August, said Hobbs “could learn a thing or two” from Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman. On Tuesday, Fetterman debated his opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz despite his post-stroke health challenges.
“Fetterman showed guts tonight. He showed up. With his vulnerability on full display, he confronted it for all to see,” LaRosa tweeted. “Ultimately, voters want to pull for candidates who show they are as vulnerable as them. Katie Hobbs could learn a thing or two from Fetterman.”
Hobbs has refused on multiple occasions to debate Republican nominee Kari Lake in the run-up to the election in November. Hobbs, Arizona’s current secretary of state, said “the debate about debates is over” when asked this week about why she has declined to face Lake on the debate stage.
“I have stood up to this bully for the past two years, and Arizonans have seen that, and I’m going to continue to do that,” Hobbs told ABC News when pressed on her decision not to debate.
A local news station televised a one-on-one interview with Lake on Sunday instead of a gubernatorial debate proposed for that date.
“I promise you I won’t yell, Katie,” Lake previously said, according The Associated Press. “I promise you I won’t interrupt you. And if you want to have an emotional support animal there as well, I will agree to that. But show up like a grownup and debate.”
Refusing to debate Lake, meanwhile, could have an impact on the race. Currently, Lake is ahead in the latest polls even while Democrats hold a lead in Arizona’s Senate race, the only other high-profile statewide contest.
WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 22: Michael LaRosa, Biden Administration, attends “Politico X Showtime”, a cocktails and conversation event co-hosted by Politico Playbook and Showtime’s The Circus, at the International Spy Museum on March 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images)
On Tuesday, several journalists and political commentators said that Fetterman’s debate performance was worse than expected.
“John Fetterman’s ability to communicate is seriously impaired. Pennsylvania voters will be talking about this obvious fact even if many in the media will not,” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tweeted. “This is painful to watch regardless of one’s politics.”
FILE: Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs speaks at a roundtable event in Phoenix, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
“That was painful to watch,” Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jenice Armstrong added. “From the first verbal stumble by Fetterman all the way through to the end when he announced that he’s routing for the Steelers on Sunday.”
“This debate shouldn’t be happening and Fetterman shouldn’t still be running. This just feels gross to watch,” said A.G. Hamilton, a conservative commentator.
The latest polling shows Fetterman with a slight lead over Oz in the toss-up race.
The Hobbs campaign didn’t immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
Thomas Catenacci is a politics writer for Fox News Digital.