Murkowski: I believe Kavanaugh's a good man -- but not the right man for the Court at this time

I’m rolling my eyes watching righties shake their fists at her and vow to make her pay for her treachery the next time she’s up for reelection. First of all, she’s not up again until 2022. This’ll be a distant memory by then. Second, she won her race in 2016 by 15 points. She’s not unpopular back home. And third, do I really need to remind former tea partiers that she was already successfully primaried in 2010, only to come back and win the general election as a write-in?

She’s as close to bulletproof as a red-state Republican can be when crossing their party on a big vote.

Lest there was any mystery after she voted no on cloture as to how she’d vote on confirmation, the mystery is now solved:

“I believe we are dealing with issues that are bigger than a nominee,” she said, saying it had been the “most difficult” decision she has ever had to make. Ms. Murkowski was the only Republican to vote against Judge Kavanaugh on Friday.

“I believe he is a good man,” she said, but “in my view, he’s not the best man for the court at this time.”

That sounds like she’s saying he’s probably innocent but must be borked regardless, lest the suspicions around him bring the Court into disrepute in the #MeToo era. Which is precisely what Democrats were hoping to get out of their last-minute hit on him with Ford. They can’t prove attempted rape, they can’t even show it’s more likely than not that he did it, but if they drag him through the mud enough with the accusation he’ll be so dirty by the end that centrist Republicans will balk.

Murkowski has now incentivized that strategy going forward.

But wait:

U.S. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who is considered a key vote in whether or not Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, said on Friday she had not made up her mind on what her final vote would be.

Why would anyone vote no on cloture but yes on confirmation? I can understand the opposite sort of vote — yes on cloture to bring this nightmarish process to its conclusion and say that the delay’s gone on long enough but no on the merits of the nomination. But why would you would vote yes on confirmation if you thought debate should continue?

We’re an hour away from her buddy Susan Collins showing her own cards on the Senate floor. Imagine the panic right now in Joe Manchin’s office at the unlikely yet real and growing possibility that he really might have to cast the deciding vote on Kavanaugh. That seemed unthinkable as recently as yesterday. Flake, Collins, and Murkowski were a package deal, everyone thought, so if one tilted yes or no, the others would follow. If all three voted together there’d be no scenario in which Manchin’s vote would be decisive. Either Kavanaugh would be confirmed with at least 51 votes or he’d fail with at least 51 votes in opposition.

But now, after this morning’s vote, there’s suspense. Flake and Collins went one way, Murkowski went another. Flake announced at 12:15 that he’s a yes on confirmation, but there’s certainly a chance that Collins will flip to no on the final vote, which would leave the Senate at 49/50 — with Manchin the last man to vote. What the hell does he do in that situation, knowing that Republican voters will want to tar and feather him if he flips to no and that Democratic voters will want to tar and feather him if he doesn’t?

Tea leaves:

If Collins vote yes, it’s 50/49 and then Manchin can vote yes too, comforted by the knowledge that his vote won’t mean squat. If Collins votes no (and, presumably, Murkowski votes no as well), it’s all down to the West Virginian. The selfish case for voting yes: Other red-state Democrats like Heidi Heitkamp and Phil Bredesen are seeing their polls erode due to a Kavanaugh-inspired backlash on the right. If Manchin borks the nominee, he risks the end of his political career. The selfish case for voting no: Not every red-state Democrat has had the bottom fall out over Kavanaugh. In fact, Manchin himself leads his Senate race comfortably by 9.4 points. He can afford to shed some voters and still win. All he needs to do is guesstimate how many and then, er, gamble his political career that he didn’t lowball it.

The safe choice for him is to vote yes. As angry as Democrats will be, their anger will be soothed this fall if Manchin holds that seat and it ends up giving the party 51 for a majority. They all understand his electoral predicament, however unhappy they might be with him right now. Meanwhile, Nate Silver raises an intriguing possibility as to how Democrats might get to 51 seats even if Manchin ends up losing his race:

She won her 2010 write-in campaign as an independent and was reelected in 2016 by defeating Joe Miller, the same man who’d successfully primaried her six years earlier as a Republican. He ran as a libertarian two years ago — that is, to Murkowski’s right. Both of her last two victories, in other words, have come by running as a centrist against right-wingers. And because the Murkowskis are a political institution in Alaska, she’s less reliant on institutional GOP support than most Republican incumbents are. If Democrats take over the Senate, she might make a deal with Schumer to switch sides in order to preserve her Committee seniority. Maybe that’s what today’s cloture vote was about, teasing Dems that she might be ready to play ball if the price is right.