Polling has begun heading south for Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, and with it any Democratic hopes of taking control of the Senate. The local NBC affiliate partnered with Strategic Research Associates to get a sense of the Democratic incumbent’s status with voters. The news was bad for Heitkamp, but cheery enough for challenger Kevin Cramer — and for Brett Kavanaugh:
According to SRA, it surveyed 650 likely voters last month. And, Republican challenger Rep. Kevin Cramer leads incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp by 10 percentage points; 51 percent to 41 percent. Eight percent have yet to make up their mind.
Not [sic] comparing our information from the last poll done in June with Mason-Dixon to the one done last month with SRA, Cramer is still is still in the lead, but by a closer margin: 48 percent to 44 percent.
Bear in mind that these are two separate pollsters, although working for the same client. They had similar sample sizes — 625 likely voters in June to 650 LVs in the SRA survey — but they took place on different timelines. The June survey took three days, while SRA took eleven days to complete its survey.
That makes a difference in one issue in the poll. Brett Kavanaugh had just had his first Senate confirmation hearing when the poll began, but also the first allegation from Christine Blasey Ford had just been published the previous day. The second public hearing involving both took place on the final day of polling, leaving the intervening time between for the other two accusers to come forward publicly.
One might have expected that to severely damage Kavanaugh’s standing in North Dakota, but … nope:
Obviously a hot topic lately is the pending confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Sixty percent of voters in North Dakota support Kavanaugh with 27 percent expressing opposition. The poll was conducted during the recent disclosure that Kavanaugh may have engaged in sexual misconduct while in high school and college, but before the Sept. 27 testimony by Kavanaugh and one of his accusers before the Senate Judiciary Committtee.
And in national issues, the SRA poll say an overwhelmingly that 21 percent of North Dakota voters have Kavanaugh as their biggest concern.
One has to wonder what that looks like after Kavanaugh’s testimony. Even prior to it, the issue appears to be pulling Heitkamp’s numbers down, and Kavanaugh’s fiery determination not to get chased out of the process has invigorated Republican enthusiasm for the midterms. The Hill calls this a “nightmare scenario” for red-state Democrats, and not just Heitkamp. They’re stunned that he hasn’t quit yet, and that means trouble in November:
One Democratic senator, who requested anonymity, said there’s hopeful talk within the Senate Democratic Caucus that Kavanaugh will drop out, even though he has adamantly vowed to stay.
The lawmaker said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) is urging undecided centrist Democrats to wait until three undecided Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) — make their positions known.
“He’s telling them, ‘Keep your powder dry.’ That means you don’t have to decide this — wait and see how it plays out. There’s some speculation that Kavanaugh may not last,” the lawmaker said. “They always vow to stay right until they don’t.”
A second Democratic senator said there’s widespread disbelief in the caucus that Kavanaugh is holding on.
“I just had a conversation with a colleague who said they couldn’t believe he hasn’t dropped out yet,” the second lawmaker said Monday evening. “There was a time he could have done it gracefully and could have protected the Supreme Court.”
You know what might have protected the Supreme Court? Handling Ford’s allegation properly within the committee rather than leaking it out to the press. Or for those interested in preserving Supreme Court norms, perhaps preserving the need for corroborative evidence before launching public accusations — let alone arguing that they “believe” the accuser rather than rely on tested evidence — might have preserved the larger bedrock of justice in America, the presumption of innocence in absence of evidence. We must destroy the norms to preserve them is hardly a compelling argument.
At least, it’s not selling in North Dakota. It seems unlikely to sell in Indiana, either, or other red states Trump won in 2016. If the FBI report turns out to be a bust and Kavanaugh refuses to quit, this will blow up just about the time these voters are making up their minds.