Democrats say the fight around Brett Kavanugh’s Supreme Court confirmation will help their party win over women voters already moving in their direction ahead of this year’s midterm elections and the 2020 presidential race.
Whether Kavanaugh’s nomination fails or succeeds, Democrats say Republicans should be on notice, particularly with the key constituency of suburban women.
“If there’s anything to be gained... it will be massive turnout by women in the midterm election that could add seats to a Democratic House majority and even flip the Senate,” said former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelAnthrax was the COVID-19 of 2001 The lessons of Afghanistan are usually learned too late Do not underestimate Kathy Hochul MORE, who was the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2014 cycle.
“If you’re a Republican candidate in a district with lots of moderate suburban women, you’re about to face a blue wave that’s frothing in its anger,” the former New York lawmaker said.
Mo Elleithee, the founding executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service and a longtime Democratic operative, says Democrats will “have a strong argument to make that men belittled and demeaned a woman with a credible story to tell and that can be a powerful message.”
“It was a televised personification of the culture war that has been bubbling,” Elleithee said, referring to Thursday’s dramatic testimony from Kavanugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused the nominee of assaulting her at a party the two attended as high schoolers.
“So many people saw [Christine Blasey Ford] as a vessel for their frustration, anger and fear,” he said.
In the heart of the #MeToo era, female lawmakers who are thinking about running for president are already telegraphing that the gender wars will play a prominent role in their decision-making.
At a town hall in Massachusetts on Saturday, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' The Trojan Horse of protectionism Federal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review MORE (D-Mass.) acknowledged that she would “take a hard look” at running for the White House.
“It’s time for women to go to Washington and fix our broken government, and that includes a woman at the top,” Warren said.
A Fox News poll released last week — ahead of Ford and Kavanaugh’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee — showed that growing opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation is being led by suburban women, who say they side with Ford over Kavanaugh by 17 percentage points.
Another poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal indicated that opposition to the judge is being dominated by women older than 50. The survey showed that in August, more women older than 50 supported Kavanaugh, by three percentage points. By the end of September, that had shifted. The number of women older than 50 who opposed Kavanagh was seven percentage points greater than those who supported him.
Democratic strategists say that’s a promising sign for their party.
“We’ve already seen a record number of women running for office and winning primaries which should also increase turnout but equally important make certain that narratives coming out of the hearings are front and center on the campaign,” said Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist who served as the executive director of the New York State Democratic Party and served as an aide to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE.
Kavanaugh’s turbulent confirmation process has drawn comparisons to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who was accused in 1991 of sexual harassment by Anita Hill.
Smikle noted that in the aftermath of Hill’s testimony, the ranks of women doubled on Capitol Hill.
“Democrats should expect huge turnout among women, especially independent women and target the two dozen or so districts across the country that Hillary won but are represented by Republicans,” Smikle said, referring to Clinton, the party’s 2016 presidential nominee.
At the same time, Smikle cautioned Democrats that the anger is real in both parties.
“The indignant and partisan testimony by Kavanaugh is just what the Trump base wanted to see – conspiratorial in nature and hitting all the hot buttons like the Clintons and the left,” he said. “This is certainly going to push Republican turnout especially if he doesn’t get confirmed.”
Separately, Republican strategist John Feehery argued that the gender gap “works both ways.”
“It will make any man who has drank beer in college very, very nervous about voting for the Democrats,” he said.
Republican strategist Shermichael Singleton said while that may be true, the Kavanaugh fight will ultimately do more harm to the party with women.
And there’s little Republicans can do to reverse course.
“I don’t think that’s possible,” Singleton said. “We already know there’s a significant amount of data that suggests this is the year of women. …Democrats have done a good job of taking advantage of this momentum.”