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Republicans just made a giant gamble on Brett Kavanaugh

It all happened very quickly.After waiting days to hear from Christine Blasey Ford, the woman allegin...

Posted: Sep 20, 2018 11:44 AM
Updated: Sep 20, 2018 11:44 AM

It all happened very quickly.

After waiting days to hear from Christine Blasey Ford, the woman alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers, Ford's lawyers sent Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) a letter Tuesday night making clear that she wouldn't appear at Monday's hearing unless and until the FBI investigated her claim first. "She will talk with the committee," Ford's lawyer Lisa Banks told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "She is not prepared to talk in public on Monday."

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Within an hour, Grassley had responded -- making very clear that it was Monday or never for Ford. "Dr. Ford's testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events," said Grassley in a statement. "Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay."

Grassley's gambit was quickly backed by several senators who had been the most uneasy about the prospect of moving forward with a vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation without hearing from Ford first. "After learning of the allegation, Chairman @ChuckGrassley took immediate action to ensure both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have the opportunity to be heard, in public or private," tweeted Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R). "Republicans extended a hand in good faith. If we don't hear from both sides on Monday, let's vote." Added Republican Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake: "I implore Dr. Ford to accept the invitation for Monday, in a public or private setting."

And with that, the game of chicken was formally joined: On one side, Ford insisting that without an investigation, there can be no full hearing on the accusations. On the other, Senate Republicans and the White House, arguing that they are offering Ford a platform to tell her story but noting that the opportunity has an expiration date.

Lost amid the "will she or won't she" questions is the fact that what Grassley -- almost certainly in coordination with the White House -- is doing represents an absolutely massive political gamble: Amid the cultural upheaval of the #MeToo moment and with an election looming in less than seven weeks' time, Republicans are daring a woman alleging sexual assault against a nominee for the country's highest court to either put up or shut up.

The belief among Republicans is that if Ford won't come forward after they accommodated her desire to speak about her story (and gave her the opportunity to do so in a public or a private setting) then she will be judged to be a less-than-credible source -- allowing them to proceed with confirming Kavanaugh to the court with little negative political fallout.

Motivating all of this, of course, is the coming court term -- it begins October 4 -- and the midterm elections on November 6. Conservatives want Kavanuagh on the court for the new session because if he doesn't participate in the arguments, he can't vote -- meaning that the possibility of 4-4 ties, which means the lower court's decision holds, goes way up. Politically speaking, a chance exists that Republicans lose control of the Senate in the 2018 election. (It's not likely, but it is a possibility.) If that happened, Republicans would have to try to force Kavanaugh's confirmation through in a lame-duck session held between the election and the swearing in of the new Congress. A Democratic-controlled Senate would almost certainly refuse to vote Kavanuagh through -- particularly after the stalling tactics Republicans put in place when President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the court in 2016.

Those twin legal and political necessities are driving Republicans to what, from the outside, looks like a considerable political gamble. Here's why it's risky:

1) The leader of the Republican Party has major polling problems among women. President Donald Trump, who was elected in 2016 despite allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior from more than a dozen women surfaced during the campaign, has absolutely dismal numbers among female voters. In a new CNN-SSRS poll, just 29% of women approved of the job Trump was doing in office while 65% disapproved. More tellingly, 57% strongly disapproved of how Trump was doing the job. That speaks to a level of vitriol (and passion) that, traditionally, translates into major turnout in the coming election.

2) Democrats have nominated a record number of women in 2018 primaries, setting up a massive contrast, potentially, with a Republican Party that set a hard and fast deadline for a woman alleging sexual assault and then moved on when she failed to meet it. (Check out this graphic that shows just how many Democratic women have run -- and won -- this year.)

3) Anita Hill. The specter of the shabby treatment of Hill, a former colleague of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, during his 1991 confirmation hearings looms over all of this back-and-forth between Senate Republicans and Ford. Hill, who alleged that Thomas behaved inappropriately to her in the workplace, was put to harsh questioning by the male members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The chairman of the committee at the time -- Joe Biden -- has since said he owes Hill an apology for allowing her to be so personally and viciously attacked during the hearing.

Make no mistake: Grassley's statement on Tuesday night -- and the subsequent back-up it got from the likes of Flake and Corker -- amount to a massive risk for Republicans. They are calling Ford's bluff -- just days after she called their bluff by insisting, through an attorney, that she was willing to testify publicly about her allegations against Kavanaugh.

Now, we wait. To see whether Ford reverses herself on the necessity of a FBI investigation before she will testify. Whether Republicans can hold this risky line they have staked out. And, if Ford doesn't appear and Kavanaugh is confirmed, whether they will pay a price for that gambit at the ballot box.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 484675

Reported Deaths: 9480
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33151493
Hinds31184589
DeSoto30803365
Jackson23735349
Rankin21390373
Lee14963221
Madison14206272
Jones13430227
Forrest13199241
Lauderdale11623307
Lowndes10501176
Lamar10258130
Pearl River9151221
Lafayette8268137
Hancock7534113
Washington7144152
Oktibbeha6989124
Monroe6533167
Neshoba6489201
Warren6486166
Pontotoc632993
Panola6278127
Marshall6165126
Bolivar6129145
Union576089
Pike5626138
Alcorn540590
Lincoln5310132
George473572
Scott461596
Leflore4495140
Tippah448180
Prentiss447979
Itawamba4457100
Adams4429117
Tate4420103
Wayne434667
Simpson4339114
Copiah432988
Yazoo423686
Covington417192
Sunflower4155104
Marion4111104
Coahoma3986100
Leake398286
Newton372375
Grenada3565104
Stone351360
Tishomingo338389
Attala325987
Jasper316062
Winston305691
Clay297374
Chickasaw287866
Clarke283290
Calhoun267741
Holmes262887
Smith252249
Yalobusha224347
Tallahatchie221150
Walthall211758
Greene209945
Lawrence207034
Perry201054
Amite199452
Webster196942
Noxubee179339
Montgomery172954
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162537
Tunica154235
Benton143035
Kemper138840
Choctaw128826
Claiborne127134
Humphreys127038
Franklin116928
Quitman104227
Wilkinson102036
Jefferson91533
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 790648

Reported Deaths: 14025
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1117431765
Mobile709021237
Madison50032633
Shelby36350315
Baldwin36278495
Tuscaloosa34034548
Montgomery33229678
Lee22712220
Calhoun21297410
Morgan19852335
Etowah19341462
Marshall17716274
Houston16862386
St. Clair15479305
Cullman14659258
Limestone14609188
Elmore14507264
Lauderdale13557281
Talladega13015236
DeKalb12214237
Walker10604330
Blount9735157
Autauga9691137
Jackson9400158
Coffee8934175
Dale8631173
Colbert8545184
Tallapoosa6688181
Escambia6599121
Covington6466167
Chilton6395144
Russell608755
Franklin5805101
Chambers5425134
Marion4818120
Dallas4713189
Clarke464079
Pike463297
Geneva4433117
Winston427395
Lawrence4124108
Bibb410281
Barbour347470
Marengo326485
Monroe320253
Butler318490
Randolph306656
Pickens306474
Henry302658
Hale293085
Cherokee290855
Fayette280373
Washington245548
Crenshaw238770
Cleburne236751
Clay229265
Macon220658
Lamar200443
Conecuh182046
Coosa170835
Lowndes170858
Wilcox159736
Bullock149543
Perry136537
Sumter124736
Greene121443
Choctaw73427
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Tupelo
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Feels Like: 79°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
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Oxford
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Starkville
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Little bits and pieces of low pressure move back into our area over the next several days. This will bring back into our weather forecast some more chances for some isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms.
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