Josh Hawley had better hope he’s correct. Thus far, the Kavanaugh effect has yet to show itself in Missouri polling, but the Republican challenger to Sen. Claire McCaskill tells National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar that he’s seeing renewed enthusiasm across the board after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. “They’re furious,” Hawley says. But are they enough?
Of all Republican congressional hopefuls, no one viewed Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation hearings more favorably than Senate candidate Josh Hawley. Hawley, who is Missouri’s attorney general and a former clerk to Justice John Roberts, is one of the few GOP candidates to focus his campaign message on the Supreme Court and is already seeing a late surge in his race against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
The Missouri race is critical to the GOP’s goal of picking off enough red-state Democratic seats to build a sturdy long-term majority for the foreseeable future. Republicans now view Missouri as the party’s second-best pickup opportunity, after the North Dakota contest that’s increasingly looking like a GOP landslide. If Hawley’s post-Kavanaugh surge is lasting, Republicans believe their fortunes in several other red-state races will turn their way.
“When Trump nominated Judge Kavanaugh, they knew vaguely who he was, they were vaguely supportive. If you said what’s his name again, they couldn’t tell you. Now they know him, they know his wife, they know his daughters, so many people watched the hearings,” Hawley said in an interview at his campaign headquarters. “They are furious about the disgraceful behavior of the U.S. Senate and some Democrats. They’re furious that Judge Kavanaugh was smeared like this, that his wife and daughters had to go through this.”
Perhaps Hawley’s seeing it in his internal polling. Fox News conducted the most recent poll in Missouri, which wrapped up on October 2nd, five days after the second hearing but well before Kavanaugh’s confirmation. That poll ended it a dead heat 46-all, although Kraushaar notes that Hawley had more room to grow his base than McCaskill did hers. The second-most recent poll from CNN showed McCaskill ahead, 47/44, in polling that took place before, during, and after the second hearing.
For the moment, the only demonstrable correlative effect from the Kavanaughcalypse in Missouri has been a decline in support for both Hawley and McCaskill in the RCP aggregation average:
Support for both candidates hit their peak just before the first hearing. It’s been dropping ever since. Until more polling becomes public, it’s possible to conclude that the hearings and smear campaign turned off more voters than they enthused.
Still, Hawley thinks the Kavanaughcalypse has dealt him a winning hand. His campaign went all-in on his Kavanaugh pitch in an ad last week, aptly titled Circus. “Liberals like Chuck Schumer and Claire McCaskill, they don’t want the truth,” Hawley says in this direct attack ad, “they only want power.” Hawley sums up his mission in the election as a Republican who will “stand up” to the Democrats, especially on the Supreme Court as “the last line of defense for our values.” Hawley’s placing a big bet on the Kavanaugh effect. It had better pay off.