Collins's big speech: Thank Michael Avenatti for helping to steer her towards supporting Kavanaugh

History will remember, incredulously, that in the end the two most forceful advocates for Kavanaugh’s confirmation in the Senate were … Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins.

2018: Year of the RINO?

This is a good point about the optics of Collins’s surprisingly comprehensive, even enthusiastic speech in Kavanaugh’s defense this afternoon:

The chatterati spent the last few hours puzzling over why low-key Susan Collins would have decided to make a spectacle of her yes vote, knowing that it was bound to piss off one half of her state or the other half. She wasn’t really going to blindside McConnell and her caucus by putting on a big show of voting no, was she? Or did she just like the idea of having the national spotlight momentarily all to herself, as politicians are known to do?

The truth is shocking: It looks like Collins set this up so that she could send Kavanaugh off to the Court with the biggest boost she could muster. She knew everyone was hanging on her vote and would watch the speech. She also doubtless knew that the image of a moderate woman Republican with two other Republican women in-frame would be a strong visual counter to liberal talking points that women are united against Kavanaugh. So she seized the opportunity to deliver a point-by-point refutation of all of the arguments against him, replete with some justified score-settling. She dinged whichever scumbag it was on the Democratic side who outed Ford by leaking her letter to Feinstein to the media. And she dinged the Avenatti-sponsored Swetnick fiasco, suggesting that it focused her on how important the presumption of innocence is:

“This outlandish allegation was put forth without any credible supporting evidence and simply parroted public statements of others. That such an allegation can find its way into the Supreme Court confirmation process is a stark reminder about why the presumption of innocence is so ingrained in our American consciousness,” Collins said in a Senate floor speech before declaring that she would vote to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

She wasn’t really undecided on Kavanaugh, it seems, or if she was her indecision was substantially eased by the FBI report. She used perceptions of her indecision to generate public interest, then took advantage of that interest to lobby the public for him at length. All righties wanted was a yes vote. Instead they got a pretty ringing endorsement. What a stunner.

And now the Good People must make her pay:

The circus ringmaster is annoyed too, of course:

There was a message to Kavanaugh in this speech too, though. Collins went on at length about why she doesn’t believe he’ll vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, a passage that led Ann Coulter to quip, “The longer she talks, the less sure I am that we want him.” That was, I thought, Collins’s way of communicating to the nominee himself what she expects from him in exchange for gambling her political career on his confirmation. You want the seat and I want Roe intact, she was saying. Don’t make a schmuck out of me, Brett.

We’ll see if he does. Roe has always been the key to Collins’s support for him; numerous news reports since July have claimed she was lukewarm about Amy Coney Barrett, believing that she was more of a threat to follow through on nuking Roe than the Bush-backed establishmentarian Kavanaugh was. Kavanaugh’s still a risk to do it. But given the deep skepticism towards him among Democrats after the Ford matter and Collins’s appeal to him on the Senate floor, I think the odds that he pushes the button are smaller today than they were a month ago.

And hey: Even if he does, John Roberts will probably just cross the aisle and vote with the liberals to uphold abortion. It’s not like he’s above disappointing the right on a momentous vote.

I can’t find a transcript of the speech yet but will update with one when it’s available. If you don’t have time to watch it all (who does?), skip to 35:00 and watch her lay into Democrats who treated Ford as a political bludgeon. Exit question: Does Collins’s speech hurt Avenatti’s presidential chances? Logically, you would think liberals might be annoyed at him and say, “This media-whore clown might have spoiled our one chance to pick up Republican votes.” But in 2018 the logic is more likely to be, “Collins was always going to vote for Kavanaugh. She’s just blaming Avenatti because he frightens the right. Elect him and own the cons!”

Update: Here’s the transcript.