Sen. Mitch McConnell is making a bet on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court: that if he forces this nomination through, he’ll save his Senate majority, even while ensuring the House flips to the Democrats. He’s betting that the far-right base will be so activated by this fight that they’ll overcome the massive wave of angry women that will flock to the polls on Nov. 6.
“He understood immediately that if we’re not willing to stand up to the liberal mob in collusion with the media then there’s going to be a whole lot of Republicans asking themselves: ‘Why am I voting for this party?'” says one of his advisers, Scott Jennings. McConnell’s belief is that he’ll get so many conservative voters out in North Dakota and West Virginia, and maybe a few of the other red state seats now held by Democrats, that they’ll overwhelm the blue wave there. That will mean, in his calculus, that the wave will still catch suburban House races and a bunch of governorships, but he’s willing to see them flip to Democrats as long as he keeps his Senate—and the opportunity to keep pushing through Trump’s extremist judge picks.
The polling shows that yes, the woman-hating far right is very worked up after last week’s testimony. In a CBS News/YouGov poll, support among Republicans for Kavanaugh jumped from 69 percent the week before to 75 percent, and 46 percent of them say they’d be “angry” as opposed to just “disappointed” if he is rejected.
Of course, opposition to Kavanaugh in that same poll jumped from 30 percent to 37 percent. A snap poll conducted by Harvard CAPS/Harris over the weekend shows a bigger problem for Kavanaugh and Republicans, with 44 percent opposing him (37 percent supporting) and 45 percent of independents opposing, compared to 28 percent supporting him. Quinnipiac finds even greater opposition to the nomination, 48 to 42, with women in particular opposing by 55-37.
McConnell could be right. He could be making a perfectly reasonable calculation that the confirmation of a guy with a drinking problem who probably sexually assaulted multiple women will be just the thing to make the base vote in such numbers that they’ll take all the red-state Senate seats, even while losing the House. But what he doesn’t know is how many new voters and infrequent midterm voters he might just be activating in all those places. This could be particularly true if an FBI investigation, now seemingly unfettered by Trump’s previous limitations, finds a lot more fire under all this smoke.