Red State Dems' Dilemma: New Poll Shows Senate Battleground Voters Want Trump's SCOTUS Pick Confirmed

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Posted: Jul 10, 2018 1:30 PM
Red State Dems' Dilemma: New Poll Shows Senate Battleground Voters Want Trump's SCOTUS Pick Confirmed

Yesterday, we laid out the case that vulnerable Senate Democrats representing Trump-dominated states would be wise to disregard the foolish SCOTUS advice being dispensed by their colleague, Dick Durbin. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's top deputy suggested over the weekend that in evaluating the president's then-unnamed Supreme Court nominee, red state Democrats should prioritize partisan opposition over their own re-election considerations.  The Wall Street Journal's William McGurn was similarly taken aback by this reflexively resistance-minded counsel:

What makes Mr. Durbin’s call so striking is his frankness about the losing position his party is in. He recognizes that what his party is gearing up to do—wage an all-out war on Brett Kavanaugh (on Monday Nancy Pelosi sent out a fundraising letter saying she will “avenge” Barack Obama by opposing Mr. Trump’s then unannounced nominee “if it’s the last thing I do”)—may prove unpopular enough to cost some red-state Democratic senators their seats come November. Ten Democratic incumbents are up for re-election in states Mr. Trump carried...Now, it’s one thing for a gadfly such as Rand Paul or Bernie Sanders to be willing to give up seats. It’s another when such talk comes from the Senate minority whip...Mr. Durbin is making clear that more-moderate Democrat incumbents will be dragooned into the party’s war with Mr. Trump over the Supreme Court whether they can afford to or not. No doubt this approach resonates with the party’s donors and its activist wings in New York and California. But it won’t play as well in the red states where the most vulnerable Democratic senators are now fighting for their political lives.

The pressure from the Left to vote against Brett Kavanaugh (or nominee 'XX,' according to one amusing, rushed out, pre-written press release) will be immense.  But that gambit may also prove futile; moderate Republicans appear to be positively disposed toward Kavanaugh, who was confirmed with 57 votes in 2006 -- and his experience and influence have only swelled ever since.  Thanks to Harry Reid, Democrats lack the power to block Kavanaugh if all GOP members stick together.  Barring a stunning revelation or an unexpected hearings meltdown, the president's nominee appears well-positioned for confirmation.  And if that's the case, it would be a worst-of-all-words outcome for moderate-posturing Democrats, who'd alienate home voters with empty 'no' votes, while failing to impede the ascension of Kavanaugh to the Court.  All in all, this strikes me as the correct early line:


One intriguing development is the equivocations of Florida's Bill Nelson, a liberal Democrat who's at least pretending that he's considering supporting Kavanaugh -- for now.  This also caught the attention of National Review's Charles Cooke, a new Florida resident:


Nelson is in a dogfight with the state's cash-flush, popular Republican governor, so perhaps he's reconsidering his knee-jerk liberalism during election season.  Or perhaps his internals reflect data like this:


Granted, this survey asked voters about a generic Republican nominee (one might argue that Kavanaugh fits that bill), and appears to have pushed 'leaners' or undecideds into the binary choice -- but the broad-brush results are likely an approximate reflection of public sentiments heading into the confirmation battle).  Joining the obstructionist push on such a key, high profile nomination isn't likely to play well back home at all for a number of the Senate's most endangered incumbents.  That reality will not be lost on any of them.  But just in case they're tempted to wish it away, GOP candidates in several of these key states are pressing the issue.  In West Virginia:


In Indiana:


And in Missouri:

I'll leave you with National Review's house editorial praising the Kavanaugh pick, a New York Times op/ed written by a liberal Yale Law School professor extolling his former student's intellectual deftness and powerhouse reputation (he calls Kavanaugh a "superb" nominee), and my brief commentary about qualifications andthe confirmation math: