Rand Paul: I've thought about it long enough. I'm supporting Kavanaugh.

So much for my theory that Rand had been extra-chummy with Trump on Russiagate lately because he really was thinking of voting against Kavanaugh and wanted to bank some presidential goodwill in case he decides to cast that fateful vote.

New theory, then: He genuinely did admire Trump’s performance during the Helsinki press conference. Yeesh.

The headline one week ago: “Wavering Rand sets off Supreme Court spectacle.” The headline today: “Rand does what literally everyone expected him to do.”

The read from most observers on Paul’s “Will I or won’t I?” shtick was that it was a play for attention, a low-cost way of burnishing his maverick-y image. Sure, he’d end up voting for Kavanaugh in the end, but keeping the suspense going through the confirmation hearing would keep the spotlight pointed at him and his support for civil liberties. The problem: There was no suspense. The entire political world saw right through it, particularly after he pulled the same shtick during Mike Pompeo’s confirmation process for Secretary of State. Democrats have been chortling about it all week.

“You guys get teased so easily,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said with a heavy laugh when asked if he thinks Paul could join most Democrats in opposing Kavanaugh.

“We don’t usually count on that,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) joked…

“On privacy, Sen. Paul has been a very consistent, very active legislator on ensuring that Americans’ privacy is strongly protected. So this is not some new concerns of his,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said in an interview. “Unfortunately, Sen. Paul has a history of making a big declaration about something that will change the outcome of an important vote, and then in the last days or hours before the vote, changing his position.”

If Paul had dragged this out only to vote for Kavanaugh in the end under tremendous Republican pressure he would have ended up as even more of a laughingstock, like a 10-part murder-mystery miniseries where it’s clear from the opening scenes whodunnit. The dignified thing to do was to drop the charade and put his cards on the table now.

There may be strategic value to him opting for confirmation early too. Politico notes today that Schumer’s strategy with respect to red-state Democrats has been to ask them to stay undecided for as long as possible, which makes sense. That keeps the pressure on Collins and Murkowski as the potential deciding votes, increasing the odds that they’ll tilt no in the end. The wrinkle is that Collins and Murkowski have been nothing but enthusiastic about Kavanaugh so far; one gets the impression listening to them that they told Trump in advance that they’d be okay with Kavanaugh as the nominee (and maybe not so okay with other nominees who were hardcore anti-abortion warriors). Until this morning it was Paul rather than the two centrists who seemed likeliest to flip. Now that Paul is all-in on Kavanaugh, it looks extremely likely that all 50 Republicans will vote yes — and the likelier that is, the likelier it also is that red-state Dems like Manchin, Joe Donnelly, etc will also cast meaningless yes votes in order to protect their right flank before the midterms.

That is to say, Rand’s commitment to confirming Kavanaugh may encourage red-state Democrats to also commit ASAP, which will be useful in case some dirt on the nominee surfaces later. They can always change their minds, but politicians don’t like to reverse themselves once they’ve staked out a position lest it show weakness. If Rand’s move shakes loose a few red-state Dems sooner than expected, Kavanaugh’s confirmation is all but in the bag.

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