The New York Times published a piece today with the bland title “For Midterms, Supreme Court Political Drama Plays to Its Audience.” It turns out that’s a nice way of saying vulnerable Senate Democrats are struggling between telling the base what it wants to hear and reality. Right now, it sounds as if reality is winning:
Making his way through the Capitol, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida said “look at my statement” three times in 15 seconds when pressed about the appointment, hoping to let his carefully worded news release carry the day.
Such dodges only whetted the appetites of Republicans, who taunted the Democrats for their hesitation and, in some cases, predicted they would eventually give in and support Judge Kavanaugh…
Perhaps no Republican Senate hopeful was more eager to hold up the court issue than Josh Hawley, the Missouri attorney general and former Supreme Court clerk who is challenging Senator Claire McCaskill.
Mr. Hawley predicted that his rival would oppose Judge Kavanaugh because her focus is “stopping Donald Trump.”
Ms. McCaskill vowed only to make “an independent judgment” on the appointment, but did point out she had voted for nearly 80 percent of Mr. Trump’s judicial nominations. “That doesn’t sound like someone who is a knee-jerk partisan,” she said.
The political calculus could be simpler for Democrats if Judge Kavanaugh appears almost certain to be confirmed. If the Republican caucus is bound to ultimately fall in line and approve Mr. Trump’s choice on a party-line vote, then some Democrats would prefer not see their most endangered incumbents hectored by liberal donors and activists for what would be only a show of symbolic opposition.
“Our base doesn’t like hearing this, but it comes down to math: You either have the votes or you don’t,” said Jim Manley, a former Senate Democratic aide. “And I’m not so sure the votes are there to beat Brett Kavanaugh.”
Sen. Heitkamp gets a passing mention in the piece, but it sounds like she is also thinking about her prospects in November as she weighs the nomination:
Heitkamp, a vulnerable Democrat, said of Brett Kavanaugh's nomination, "elections have consequences" and she'll give him an "open-minded evaluation." She also said all his docs should be disclosed. “I’m going to vote however I’m going to vote regardless of what" Schumer says
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 11, 2018
So it sounds as if the resistance to Kavanaugh is going to fall on the shoulders of Senators Collins and Murkowski, two Republicans who lean left on abortion. Only it seems that’s not working out for the left either. From Politico:
“Let’s put it this way: There were some who have been on the list that I would have had a very, very difficult time supporting, just based on what was already publicly known about them,” Murkowski (R-Alaska) said in an interview on Monday. “We’re not dealing with that.”
Collins (R-Maine) told reporters that while she wouldn’t directly compare Kavanaugh with Barrett, she touted Kavanaugh’s experience and sounded warm notes about him while insisting she has yet to decide.
“It will be very difficult for anyone to argue that he’s not qualified for the job. He clearly is qualified for the job,” Collins said. “But there are other issues involving judicial temperament and his political, or rather, his judicial philosophy that also will play into my decision.”
Granted that’s not a yes, but it’s also not the ‘Hell no!’ the left was hoping for. Unless the oppo-researchers can come up with something pretty dramatic in the next couple weeks, I think this is a done deal.
Uh-oh, maybe I spoke too soon. The Washington Post just changed everything:
In Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep yearbook, he listed himself as the treasurer of the “Keg City Club — 100 Kegs or Bust” and included references to the “Beach Week Ralph Club” and “Rehoboth Police Fan Club.”
That’s probably going to be the highlight of the confirmation hearings right there. Sen. Chuck Schumer, or someone even more desperate, is going to ask about Keg Club. Good luck with that.