The potential political downside could be much greater for the Democratic Party with Gorsuch than it ultimately was for the GOP with Garland — leaving reason to doubt that Democrats would fully obstruct the nominee rather than seek a more favorable fight elsewhere.
“I think it’s likely he’ll be confirmed,” said one Democratic Senate campaign operative, “and there will be a larger fight on the next one.”
At the heart of Democrats’ dilemma is an unusually challenging Senate map ahead in 2018, which will feature 10 of their incumbents running for re-election in states where Trump won. Were Democrats to block Gorsuch for months to come, their obstruction could begin to impact those frontline races.
“If they continue to delay this for a year or two, I think there will be a consequence for states that Trump carried in a big way,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican. “If you take a look at North Dakota, Montana, Missouri, Indiana and West Virginia, they’re all states that Mr. Trump carried by 17 points or more. I think the real people in those states are expecting action, and all those states have Democrat incumbent members who are up in 2018.”