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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: 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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