“I do think this battle substantially raises the odds of a Democratic takeover of the Senate,” Klain said. “The party aggrieved by the Supreme Court votes on the Court as an issue. Until now, that has been Republican. Starting now, that will be Democrats.”
Though he wasn’t particularly bullish on the prospects of influencing Trump’s choice to replace Kennedy, Klain stressed that there were some political pressure points for Democrats to target. In particular, he called for lawmakers to frame the debate “squarely and firmly” around the future of abortion rights, to push hard on Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)—both pro-choice Republicans—and to work with Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Bob Corker (R-TN), critics of the president, “on keeping Trump in check.”
But even that would, potentially, not be enough. One plugged-in Democratic strategist with extensive connections on Capitol Hill cautioned that it should not be assumed that moderate Democratic senators would vote against Trump’s nominee, since supporting him or her could help demonstrate bipartisan credentials before an election. “Those… senators need to show some political courage,” the strategist said, naming three traditionally moderate members: Joe Manchin (D-WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN).