But Republicans say a monthslong battle over Kennedy’s replacement, and expected confirmation vote just before the election, is an insurance policy of “immeasurable” value. It gives the Republicans a tangible issue to motivate low-propensity voters and put the squeeze on vulnerable red state Senate Democrats who must choose: vote with their state or anger the liberal base.
Democratic operatives concede that it’s a dilemma for the party’s Senate incumbents that could sow division and prove costly in November. Democratic leaders and influential progressives are already demanding the confirmation of Trump’s forthcoming nominee be delayed until after the midterm elections, similar to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s blockade of a vacant Supreme Court seat prior to 2016.
“The needle just moved from a plus-two Democratic advantage to a plus-three GOP environment. Those five points could well equal a gain of five Senate seats,” said Jeff Roe, a GOP strategist active in Senate races, including on behalf of state auditor Matt Rosendale, the Republican challenging Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in Montana.