There are reasons for skepticism here, starting with the poll’s provenance, but reasons for hope too.
Missouri Rising Action, a super PAC backing Republican Josh Hawley, yesterday got back numbers from pollster Jim McLaughlin showing Hawley leading Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) by 52-44.
That’s a huge swing from the previous poll, in June, which had McCaskill leading Hawley 46-42.
The last poll from Missouri Rising Action taken late last week had Hawley up 48/46. If their numbers are accurate, he’s gained six net points in a matter of days. Hard to imagine there’s anything else driving that but the Kavanaughpocalypse.
Reasons for skepticism: The poll was commissioned by a pro-Hawley Super PAC, not an independent pollster. Look at the independent polling and you’ll find a much closer race, with Hawley and McCaskill separated by less than half a point. There’s been no sign of any swing towards Hawley recently, either. The last three polls, all of which were taken after Christine Blasey Ford first accused Kavanaugh, had the race Hawley +2, McCaskill +3, and a flat tie yesterday in the new data released by Fox News. If there’s a sharp tilt towards the Republican, the polling pros aren’t picking it up (yet).
Reasons for hope: There has been a sharp tilt in North Dakota towards Republican Kevin Cramer and away from Heidi Heitkamp since the war over SCOTUS broke out. If it’s happening there, it’s not crazy to suspect it might be happening in Missouri too. In fact, per Axios, Republican consultants claim there’s evidence of a shift towards Team Red in enthusiasm across multiple states:
Top Republicans tell Axios that they’re seeing a surprising and widespread surge in GOP voter enthusiasm, powered largely by support for Brett Kavanaugh and his Supreme Court nomination.
What they’re saying: “The Kavanaugh debate has dropped a political grenade into the middle of an electorate that had been largely locked in Democrats’ favor for the past six months,” said Josh Holmes, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Pointing to Montana, Indiana, West Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee, Holmes added: “[P]rivate polling shows the enthusiasm shift is … unmistakable in the red states that will determine control of the Senate.”
Hopefully that’s true and not just blather to keep the pressure on Collins and Murkowski to vote yes on confirmation. For what it’s worth, independent polling doesn’t show much of a surge in Montana, Indiana, or West Virginia, where Democrats still lead. (The excerpt says Republican enthusiasm is rising, not the actual vote shares of Republican candidates.) There might be a shift in Tennessee, though: A CNN poll taken in mid-September, right before the Ford allegations blew up, had Democrat Phil Bredesen up by five points. A Fox poll released yesterday showed a complete reversal, with Marsha Blackburn up five. Another backlash to Kavanaugh, or is one of those polls an outlier?
Or, perhaps, is the Fox poll showing Blackburn ahead accurate but for more prosaic reasons than the Kavanaugh slugfest? It’s a deep red state, after all. Blackburn is favored to win. It would have been unsurprising to see her gain late as undecideds ended up tilting towards the GOP even in a world where we weren’t collectively mired in a SCOTUS/#MeToo nightmare.
More reasons for hope:
The SCOTUS fight is having an undeniable impact on the GOP base.
NRCC low-dollar fundraising facts over the last week:
Donations: ⬆️ 175%
Raised: ⬆️ 194%
Average Gift: ⬆️ 111%
Average Raised Off Text: ⬆️ 226%
One text even raised 7x (!) more than our average…
— Matt Gorman (@mattsgorman) October 4, 2018
A new poll from IBD/TIPP today has Democrats’ generic ballot lead dropping from 11 points last month to two(!) this month. They’re the only pollster to show such a dramatic tightening of the race, so be cautious. But there has been a little tightening in the RCP average of late. Start of a trend, maybe?
If you’re thinking the new Super PAC poll might coax a yes vote out of McCaskill on Kavanaugh, rethink. Although she’s represented a red-and-getting-redder state for 12 years, she’s rarely crossed the aisle on a big vote. She voted no on the far less controversial Neil Gorsuch, for instance, even though his confirmation was assured. As both a Democrat and a woman, she’ll face enormous pressure not to “validate” Kavanaugh or whatever by voting for him, even in the name of her protecting her right flank. If you want two votes out of Missouri for future SCOTUS nominees, the only solution is to replace her.
Via the Free Beacon, here’s CNN asking White House spokesman Raj Shah if maybe it wouldn’t make more sense for the party to dump Kavanaugh at this point and start over. That’d be superb for the GOP’s polling, I’m sure.