Kavanaugh Bump? GOP Fights for New Energy as Vote Nears - NBC Connecticut
Decision 2018

Decision 2018

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Kavanaugh Bump? GOP Fights for New Energy as Vote Nears

Even a small erosion in the so-called enthusiasm gap could make a big difference in the Democratic Party's high-stakes push to wrest control of Congress from the GOP



    A Colon Cancer Patient Gets the Right Care at the Right Time
    Jim Mone/AP
    President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, in Rochester, Minn.

    What to Know

    • Strategists say the GOP's embrace of Brett Kavanaugh could inject new energy into the party's base a month before the midterm elections

    • The midterms usually draw fewer eligible voters to the poll, so a new surge of energy has the potential to make a difference in the outcome

    • Just as Trump benefited from opposition to Clinton in 2016, the GOP could benefit from opposition to Democrats' handling of Kavanaugh

    On the brink of a political gender war, President Donald Trump's Republican Party is threatening to erode Democrats' enthusiasm advantage as the fiery debate over his Supreme Court nominee enters its final phase.

    Political strategists in both parties suggest the GOP's enthusiastic embrace of Brett Kavanaugh despite multiple allegations of sexual misconduct may have shifted the political landscape — at least temporarily — by injecting new energy into the most passionate Republican voters a month before the election. Trump's aggressive defense of Kavanaugh — and more recent attacks against his female accuser — have resonated particularly with white working-class men, who are a shrinking voting bloc nationally but remain a critical segment of Trump's political base.

    For now, many men apparently agree with Trump's warning that the surge in women speaking out against sexual violence in the #MeToo era has created "a very scary time" for men in America.

    "Democrats have been trying to destroy Judge Brett Kavanaugh since the very first second he was announced," Trump declared as he rallied voters in Minnesota on Thursday night. He added: "What they're putting him through and his family is incredible."

    Kavanaugh to Take Supreme Court Seat Days After Confirmation

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    Brett Kavanaugh is expected to take his seat on the Supreme Court on Tuesday, just days after the Senate narrowly voted to confirm him despite allegations of sexual misconduct from his teenage years. 

    (Published Monday, Oct. 8, 2018)

    Energy is everything in midterm elections, which typically draw fewer eligible voters to the polls. And through the first 21 months of the Trump era, Democrats have claimed an undisputed enthusiasm advantage — as evidenced by a slate of special election victories and fundraising successes.

    Yet even a small erosion in the so-called enthusiasm gap could make a big difference in the Democratic Party's high-stakes push to wrest control of Congress from the GOP.

    The Kavanaugh debate "is making the two groups of people who are already mad at each other in America even madder. To me, the question is, who is maddest?" said Gary Pearce, a veteran North Carolina Democratic strategist.

    Just as Trump benefited from opposition to Hillary Clinton in his 2016 election, the GOP could benefit from opposition to the Democratic Party's handling of Kavanaugh this midterm season.

    "This may be energizing the right — especially people who don't like Trump and may not have been motivated to vote," Pearce said. "This is the substitute for Hillary."

    The Supreme Court clash has already attracted a surge of new campaign cash for both parties.

    Key Votes in the Senate

    Here's how the key undecided votes turned out.


    The Republican National Committee and its associated groups raised more than $3 million in digital donations this past weekend, the most it's ever raised online, according to a GOP official. And last Saturday was the GOP's highest single-day online fundraising haul.

    The official wasn't authorized to publicly discuss the fundraising details and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    The GOP says the fundraising surge is fueled by anger over how allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh have played out.

    On the other side, the online Democratic fundraising portal ActBlue pulled in $25 million in just two days, while Emily's List, a group that aims to elect more Democratic women, also set a record for online fundraising.

    Trump and his lieutenants on Capitol Hill tried to stoke that same anger on Thursday as they outlined an aggressive timeline for the Kavanaugh confirmation. A round of Senate voting is expected Friday, with the final vote likely Saturday.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that an FBI supplemental background investigation didn't corroborate any of the allegations against the Supreme Court nominee. The Kentucky Republican said senators wouldn't be "hoodwinked" by those who have tried to "smear" Kavanaugh's reputation.

    Trump Touts Kavanaugh Confirmation at Kansas Rally

    [NATL] Trump Touts Kavanaugh Confirmation at Kansas Rally
    President Donald Trump announced there will be a ceremony Monday to formally swear in Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
    (Published Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018)

    "This is a search and destroy mission," the second-ranking Senate Republican, Sen. John Cornyn, added.

    The GOP's support of Kavanaugh puts the party at odds with the rising #MeToo movement that has empowered women across America to share their stories of sexual violence. The movement has triggered the downfall of powerful men in media, sports and politics — Republicans and Democrats alike.

    "It's a very scary time for young men," Trump said this week. A day later, he mocked Kavanaugh's accuser's memory of the alleged sexual assault.

    Many women, backed by liberal men, have been outraged by Trump's comments.

    "The idea that it's a terrible time to be a young, white guy is completely absurd," said Florida-based Democratic strategist Steve Schale.

    He noted, however, there is "some evidence that the Kavanaugh stuff is galvanizing Republicans, particularly Republican men."

    Protesters Gather on Capital Hill Ahead Of Kavanaugh Confirmation

    [NATL] Protesters Gather on Capital Hill Ahead Of Kavanaugh Confirmation

    Hundreds of people held signs and chanted to protest the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and to show support for victims of sexual assault.

    (Published Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018)

    "It's coming at a price," Schale added. "We're seeing Republican women throw their hands up."

    Indeed, while Trump often states, falsely, that he won the women's vote in 2016, Democrats have enjoyed an advantage with women for most of the last three decades.

    Political strategist Matthew Dowd, a former Republican who has criticized Trump, said it's unclear so far whether GOP energy behind Kavanaugh represents "some men on social media" or a "movement."

    "I've always been a believer that the most motivating factor in these elections is who is the angriest," Dowd said. "Whoever loses is going to be the angriest."

    There is scant polling so far suggesting that the GOP is truly benefiting from a Kavanaugh bump. Strategists note that polls often tighten in the month before any election.

    A Quinnipiac University poll released this week shows that opposition to Kavanaugh is actually growing, as is the gender gap.

    Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

    Women overall oppose the confirmation, 55 percent to 37 percent, while men support it 49 percent to 40 percent, Quinnipiac found.

    The Trump White House is expected to intensify its support for Kavanaugh as the final vote approaches.

    "You can feel the energy both for the president and for his nominee in Brett Kavanaugh," Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told Fox News. "People are outraged at the way that the Democrats have totally made this process into a partisan battle and they've created something that should never have happened."

    She continued: "And I think the message is very clear: Dems, you made a mistake here and it's going to show up in November."

    AP writer Brian Slodysko, Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.