Update: According to NBC News, Jeff Flake will vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh:
BREAKING: Following dramatic cmte. move that led to FBI review, Sen. Flake says he plans to vote in favor of Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation to the US Supreme Court.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 5, 2018
One down, three to go.
Original post follows:
To quote my favorite true-crime detective: Well, my my my. Phil Bredesen, who seems to be slipping behind Marsha Blackburn in the race to replace Bob Corker in the Senate, has picked a curious point in time to go publicly against his party. The former Tennessee governor issued a statement a few minutes ago rebuking Democrats for hijacking the confirmation process as “a license to indulge in partisanship.” If he was on the Senate floor now, Bredesen announced, Brett Kavanaugh would be planning his swearing-in ceremony now:
NEW: Democratic senatorial candidate from Tennessee Phil Bredesen says he'd vote "yes" on Brett Kavanaugh.
Bredesen adds he was "disgusted by the treatment" Dr. Ford received "and am determined to help bring about a fairer and far more respectful treatment of these issues.” pic.twitter.com/i9LsSvdent
— ABC News (@ABC) October 5, 2018
Bredesen is attempting a eat-your-cake-and-have-it-too approach here, but he’s hardly the only one doing so. He extols Christine Blasey Ford as a “heroine” and declares himself “disgusted by the treatment she received at the hands of the Senate,” but still goes with Kavanaugh, albeit on a “much closer call” than two weeks ago. He never squares the circle on the fact that the competing claims here are mutually exclusive. Note too that Bredesen never even addresses the complaint du jour of his potential caucus colleagues over the last few days — the temperament issue.
Why do this now? It’s probably because polling in Tennessee appears to have shifted during the Kavanaughcalypse. Before the Ford allegation came out and Democrats went insane over it, Bredesen led in a CNN poll of likely voters, 50/45. After two weeks of increasingly ridiculous claims about Kavanaugh, a new Fox poll of likely voters has Blackburn up 48/43. Bredesen needs to distance himself from the stench of his party’s actions in the Senate, and he needs to do it when it counts.
For red-state Democrats, though, it couldn’t come at a worse time. Joe Manchin appears ready to sign off on Kavanaugh, but none of the other red-state Democrats have done so. Republican challengers in places like Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and Montana can use Bredesen’s statement to affirm that even Democrats think this is a partisan smear campaign. Assuming that Kavanaugh gets confirmed, it’s going to be a stab in the back for Bredesen’s fellow Democrats.
And they’re already in plenty of trouble as it is. In my column for The Week, I point out that Robert Menendez’ woes in New Jersey makes it even tougher to defend those red seats in the middle of a Kavanaugh-inspired wave of enthusiasm among Republicans:
Bob Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who beat the rap in a corruption trial earlier this year, finds himself in a shocking neck-and-neck race with political upstart Bob Hugin in the deep-blue Garden State. A new Stockton University poll of likely voters shows Menendez only leading 45 percent to 43 percent in a state Clinton carried 55 to 41 in 2016. Another likely-voter poll from Fairleigh Dickinson gave Menendez a six-point lead, but only 43 percent of the vote — a very low number for an incumbent of the state’s dominant party. No likely-voter poll has given Menendez more than 45 percent support this year. …
New polling has started showing dramatic shifts in enthusiasm, especially the latest NPR/PBS/Marist poll. In July, Democrats had a 10-point edge over Republicans in rating voting in the midterms “very important.” The new data shows almost a dead heat in this regard, with Democrats holding only a two-point edge. Furthermore, the Marist generic ballot poll lead for Democrats has been cut in half, from 12 points to six, a number that approaches the traditional point for a competitive chance for the GOP to maintain or increase its standing in Congress.
Furthermore, NPR points out, it’s not just a matter of overall enthusiasm but of specific demographics. And the news is especially bad for Democrats in that regard. “While 82 percent of Democrats say the midterms are very important, that’s true of just 60 percent of people under 30, 61 percent of Latinos, and 65 percent of independents,” NPR’s Domenico Montanaro writes. “If those groups stay home in large numbers, it would blunt potential Democratic gains.” …
This makes holding onto the New Jersey seat even more critical for Democrats. To do so, however, the party may have to shift resources into the Garden State that would normally go to defending incumbents in less friendly states or to play offense on the few vulnerable Republican seats up for grabs. Even that might not be enough to stave off an angered Republican base in their home states.
It’ll be a lot harder for Democrats to do so while Bredesen’s declaring that they have every right to be angry. Maybe it’ll be enough for him to salvage his own race, but he’d better hope Kavanaugh gets confirmed tomorrow. If he gets shot down, the Republican base will be looking to punish Democrats in places like Tennessee.
One has to wonder now whether endangered incumbents like Joe Donnelly and Jon Tester might reconsider their final vote on confirmation tomorrow, with Bredesen’s words hanging in the air. Donnelly might be the most likely, and although the odds are low on either, it’s still worth watching.
Besides, who does Bredesen think he’s fooling? Besides Manchin, who has bucked his party’s leadership at times, who do any of these red-state Democrats running for the Senate think they’re fooling?