Republicans needed a midterms miracle. Could Brett Kavanaugh be it?

The confirmation fight over Brett Kavanaugh's nomination hasn't gone the way any Republican would h...

Posted: Oct 5, 2018 6:46 AM
Updated: Oct 5, 2018 6:46 AM

The confirmation fight over Brett Kavanaugh's nomination hasn't gone the way any Republican would have hoped when President Donald Trump picked him for the Supreme Court on July 9.

What looked like a sure-thing confirmation -- and one that would move the court in a decidedly more conservative direction for years to come -- has been badly sidetracked by allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.

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And yet, it appears as though the incredibly public and nasty fight over what Kavanaugh did or didn't do has had a somewhat unexpected result: Republican base voters are suddenly telling pollsters that they are considerably more enthusiastic about voting in 33 days' time.

In a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, Republicans had closed a 10-point enthusiasm deficit with Democrats in July, which is down to just 2 points now. In July, 78% of Democrats and 68% of Republicans said the November elections were "very important." Now, 80% of Democrats say the same while 78% of Republicans do too.

That same poll shows that the Democratic edge on the generic ballot question -- if the election were held today would you vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in your district -- has been cut in half (from 12 points to 6) between mid-September and now. Now, this poll was conducted entirely in one night, so it may not be completely representative of public opinion.

But it's not the only one showing a surge of GOP excitement. A new Quinnipiac poll released earlier this week showed that a 14-point lead Democrats had in the generic ballot in mid-September is now down to 7 points.

"The numbers suggest the big blue wave may have lost some of its momentum as House races tighten," concluded assistant director of the Q poll Tim Malloy.

It's not just public polling either. Glen Bolger, one of the very best Republican pollsters, tweeted this last week:

"Seeing a significant jump in GOP voter interest in the elections this week. The Dem intensity advantage is melting away. Two things:

1. I figure it has to be Kavanaugh effect.

2. Remains to be seen if it lasts.

GOP campaigns should not assume their turnout concerns are done"

President Donald Trump has latched onto these signs of a Republican comeback.

On Wednesday night, he tweeted: "Wow, such enthusiasm and energy for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Look at the Energy, look at the Polls. Something very big is happening. He is a fine man and great intellect. The country is with him all the way!"

Then, on Thursday morning, he came back with this: "The harsh and unfair treatment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh is having an incredible upward impact on voters. The PEOPLE get it far better than the politicians. Most importantly, this great life cannot be ruined by mean & despicable Democrats and totally uncorroborated allegations!"

That is, as usual with Trump, a considerable oversimplification of the available data. What we are seeing is not his much-predicted "red wave." Instead we are seeing, at least for the moment, a narrowing of Democratic advantage based, presumably, on how the battle lines have been drawn over Kavanaugh.

The focus by Democrats -- and the media -- on uncorroborated allegations made about Kavanaugh's behavior in high school and college have convinced many Republicans this is nothing more than an attempt to smear a good man for partisan gain. Democrats don't like that Trump won the election and are now working to block his right to pick people to fill Supreme Court vacancies. That's all this is!

That makes the Republican base mad. And mad is a good thing in politics, because mad voters tend to vote. Democratic voters have been mad to the point of outrage since the day Trump won the 2016 presidential election. Matching that passion -- or, more accurately, struggling to match that passion, has been the Republicans' struggle since the start of 2017.

The fight over Kavanaugh appears to have done the trick. But there's a few important caveats to consider:

1) Kavanaugh now looks like he will be confirmed. If he is, does that effectively dissipate GOP base anger about the way the confirmation fight played out?

2) The GOP enthusiasm bounce has reduced the clear edge Democrats had going into the fall election. It hasn't reduced it entirely. Generic ballot leads of 6 or 7 points are still the sort of thing that could deliver Democrats the House majority in the next Congress.

3) The weight of history suggests Republicans are in for a tough election. In only three elections -- 1934, 1998 and 2002 -- since the Civil War has the president's party not lost House seats in a midterm election. Those losses average more than 30 seats when the president is under 50% job approval -- as Trump is in both the NPR and Q polls.

Make no mistake: The GOP base's reinvigoration by the Kavanaugh confirmation fight is a pleasant -- and much-needed -- surprise for Republicans who had become grimly accepting of their near-certain fate at the ballot box in 33 days' time. But it is not a cure-all. Republican candidates in too many districts are in too much trouble for that.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to make clear that the NPR/PBS poll is a one-night poll.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 250869

Reported Deaths: 5481
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17010171
Hinds16091318
Harrison13250193
Rankin10629208
Jackson10216182
Lee8759141
Madison8186161
Jones6222109
Forrest5917118
Lauderdale5808180
Lowndes5309111
Lafayette491192
Lamar480465
Washington4770123
Bolivar3955106
Oktibbeha390380
Panola365076
Pontotoc361152
Monroe3521104
Warren344597
Union341458
Marshall339165
Neshoba3357152
Pearl River323295
Leflore2992105
Lincoln295685
Sunflower280469
Tate269560
Alcorn262653
Itawamba261159
Hancock260458
Pike259977
Scott244745
Prentiss244052
Yazoo242654
Tippah239749
Copiah239149
Simpson233967
Leake229564
Coahoma228554
Grenada217070
Covington210471
Marion208371
Adams203270
Winston199464
Wayne198730
George197938
Attala193158
Newton189142
Chickasaw182944
Tishomingo182159
Holmes168167
Jasper167735
Clay158233
Stone141520
Tallahatchie139234
Clarke137460
Calhoun135121
Smith119423
Yalobusha116134
Walthall111736
Noxubee110222
Greene109129
Montgomery109134
Carroll104121
Lawrence102117
Perry100531
Amite96825
Webster91924
Tunica86021
Claiborne85525
Jefferson Davis84025
Humphreys82624
Benton81023
Kemper76620
Quitman6838
Franklin65815
Choctaw60013
Wilkinson58325
Jefferson53419
Sharkey42417
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 420681

Reported Deaths: 6119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson61755921
Mobile30058548
Madison26852186
Tuscaloosa20652266
Montgomery18876305
Shelby18421114
Baldwin16176182
Lee12393101
Morgan12175113
Etowah11687168
Calhoun11078200
Marshall10158107
Houston8556148
Cullman7999105
Limestone796274
Elmore7783101
DeKalb767197
Lauderdale752883
St. Clair7502120
Talladega6145108
Walker5880174
Jackson578841
Colbert529873
Blount529283
Autauga515455
Coffee438156
Dale394381
Franklin365248
Chilton335365
Covington326968
Russell326810
Escambia316142
Dallas302896
Chambers281869
Clarke279633
Tallapoosa2607107
Pike247629
Marion244650
Lawrence242547
Winston225535
Bibb214447
Geneva199535
Marengo197829
Pickens196231
Hale175442
Barbour172336
Butler168458
Fayette167126
Cherokee160030
Henry152721
Monroe145017
Randolph138835
Washington137026
Clay126145
Crenshaw118644
Lamar117519
Cleburne117223
Macon114335
Lowndes109535
Wilcox102621
Bullock98728
Perry96919
Conecuh94220
Sumter88826
Greene75723
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
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