Though Republicans hold a favorable Senate map, they are fighting historical headwinds as they try to keep control of Congress. They hope Kavanaugh’s confirmation and the deeply partisan fight over his nomination will help their party and give their base a shot in the arm.
Taking a media victory lap Saturday after the confirmation fight, the normally tight-lipped McConnell pledged to tout the fight over Kavanaugh — and the win for Republicans — in the final four weeks of campaigning before the Nov. 6 elections.
“It certainly had a good impact for us. Our base is fired up. We finally discovered the one that would fire up the Republican base that we didn’t think of it, and the other side did it,” McConnell told reporters during Kavanaugh’s vote.
The pieces for Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which had seemed to be a lock for most of the summer before falling into question amid sexual misconduct allegations last month, didn’t fall into place until Friday, the day before the final vote.
McConnell said he wasn’t sure if they had the votes to get Kavanaugh through a key Friday vote to advance his nomination until the 10:30 a.m. vote began — an out-of-character decision for a leadership team that generally doesn’t bring things to the floor without knowing the expected outcome.
Kavanaugh’s nomination was all but derailed after several women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct. The allegations, which Kavanaugh denied, raised fresh questions about whether he would ultimately withdraw, a possibility that the president played down amid the firestorm.
Senate Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority that they are hoping to expand in November. But McConnell acknowledges they’re locked in a “knife fight” in several states that will make or break their hold on the chamber: Arizona, Nevada, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Tennessee, West Virginia and Florida.
McConnell argued Saturday that the GOP base is “on fire,” recalling that he was recently talking to his political advisers about “the advantage these guys, by their tactics, have given to us.”
The boost in confidence by GOP leadership comes after Trump leaned in hard for Kavanaugh this week during political rallies and on social media.
Trump went to the mat for Kavanaugh during a rally in Mississippi, saying Democrats were trying to “destroy” the nominee and “obstruct, resist, demolish, destroy and delay.”
“How did you get home? ‘I don’t remember.’ How did you get there? ‘I don’t remember.’ Where is the place? ‘I don’t remember.’ How many years ago was it? ‘I don’t know,’ ” Trump said, mocking Christine Blasey Ford but drawing cheers and applause. Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her and tried to remove her clothes during a party while the two were in high school.
Following the FBI report that followed the Judiciary Committee hearing, Trump blasted Senate Democrats on Twitter, saying even 100 reports “would still not be good enough for the Obstructionist Democrats.”
Trump’s rhetoric is already having a trickle-down effect in key Senate races. GOP candidates, backed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), are calling opposition to Kavanaugh the latest sign that vulnerable Democrats are caving to the left and out of touch with home-state voters.
Manchin said on Saturday that the White House was aware that he was leaning “yes” on Kavanaugh before he announced his position.
Kavanaugh has been plagued for months by lukewarm polling numbers and Democrats believe the months-long fight will help drive turnout in an effort to unseat Republicans who supported him.
“Some of these places where we have incumbent Democrats running like North Dakota, President Trump is still popular and a vote against Kavanaugh is unpopular,” Cornyn told a Texas radio station. “I think the way this Kavanaugh hearing and the way we he’s been treated have really energized folks on behalf of Republicans.”