If there’s one group of senators who are in an unenviable position, it’s red state Democrats. At the outset of this nomination fight, this group of senatorsliterally headed for the bunkers. It was to avoid the press. They know the position really hasn’t changed. They could vote for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and risk being harassed by progressive groups, cast out as pariahs, and denied access to the vast war chests are key in re-election years. But they would push themselves into the safer category regarding re-election. Or they can vote against him and be out of a job come January.
The judge has been hit what appears to be a political hit job at zero hour. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez have come forward with their stories that are full of holes. Ford claims Kavanaugh tried to sexually assault her at a party in high school; Ramirez alleges he exposed himself at a party at Yale.
This development has not tiled the thinking for Sen, Joe Manchin (D-WV), whose “yea” vote would seal the deal, giving him another six years in D.C. On the flip side, it could break him. You’d think the sexual misconduct allegations would give these more conservative-leaning a reason to bolt now. It’s a flimsy reason as the accusations are without evidence and corroborative witnesses, but most still have an open mind. The two that could break ranks are Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN). And yes, this bloc of senators are facing pressure from the left wing base to publicly declare their opposition, which they’re trying to avoid in case these accuser’s allegations blow up in front of the committee (via Politico):
Democratic insiders are feeling more bullish than ever that the party’s 49 caucus members ultimately will oppose Kavanaugh. Yet the undeclared bloc of Democratic senators could be a problem for Democratic leaders, who want to put the weight of the nomination entirely on a handful of holdout Republicans.
“I’m very open. I haven’t closed any doors at all on Kavanaugh. I just want to make sure there’s a fair, open and civil hearing,” said Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, perhaps the most conservative Democrat. “The man has to have a chance to clear his name, but these ladies have the complete opportunity to tell their story.”
Manchin said the allegations haven’t made him any less likely to vote against Kavanaugh than he was two weeks ago: “It hasn’t changed anything. I’m still waiting for this hearing.”
Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Doug Jones of Alabama and Bill Nelson of Florida, all publicly undecided, are expected to be firmly in the “no” column…
Democrats are similarly upbeat that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) can be persuaded to vote no, senators and aides said. She supported Justice Neil Gorsuch last year and has been intensely targeted by the GOP to back Kavanaugh. But her opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), created a stir this week when he questioned whether the assault allegations would disqualify Kavanaugh “even if it’s all true.”
The two biggest wild cards remain Manchin and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.). Both are paying close attention to how GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine vote, according to one person familiar with their thinking. And the duo has made clear to fellow Democrats that they're agonizing over the decision.
“If a vote on Kavanaugh were actually held today, it’s unclear that even all Democrats would vote no,” said Elizabeth Beavers, associate policy director at Indivisible, a leading liberal group. “We need all Democrats to immediately pledge to oppose, and we need Democratic leadership to work to ensure this happens as soon as possible."
It would be risky for some red-state Democratic senators to come out against Kavanaugh right now, according to others in their party. If the Ford allegations fall apart, they could look like props of Democratic leadership — precisely the perception they're trying to avoid in their campaigns.
The hearing on these allegations is set for Thursday. We’ll be able to better gauge the vote count. As for the GOP, well, there’s some shoring up to do as well. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Bob Corker (R-TN) could be the Republicans’ wild cards at this point. The GOP has little room for error on this nomination. They need to be on the warpath. The Democrats are already blitzing with these allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, which as of now, nothing but unsubstantiated gossip.