Dems look to women to take back the House after Kavanaugh fight

Anna Moneymaker

After Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, Democrats are looking for a silver lining: winning back the House.

While the bitter nomination battle has revved up the GOP base — and boosted the party’s chances of keeping the Senate — Democrats believe Kavanaugh’s confirmation will further alienate the moderate and independent suburban women who will likely determine the fate of the House.

“This is going to mean that we win more Dem seats than we would have without this. This is absolutely going to help us in the House,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told The Hill.

“These independent women who are so critical will sit it out and just not vote, which will help Democrats, or they will come out and vote for a Democrat.”

{mosads}Underscoring the point, hundreds of demonstrators, many of them women, descended on Senate office buildings this past week to protest Kavanaugh’s nomination and to deliver an ominous message to the GOP: “November is coming.”

“That’s a sign of things to come,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist. “When reality hits that this guy, despite everything that went on, is going to sit on the Supreme Court … it will further energize women who are disturbed, frustrated and upset — and who want to make a statement this November.”

Kavanaugh’s nomination has been embroiled in controversy since Christine Blasey Ford, a college professor from California, accused him of sexually assaulting her when the two were in high school more than three decades ago.

Two women have since come forward with their own sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh, all of which he has denied.

After the vote was delayed by a week so that the FBI could conduct a supplemental background investigation, the Senate on Saturday narrowly voted to confirm Kavanaugh.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) crossed party lines to support the nominee, while Sen. Lisa Murkowksi (R-Alaska) was the lone Republican not to support Kavanaugh.

But Democratic — and even some Republican — strategists are warning that his confirmation could further exacerbate the GOP’s problem with women voters, who are more likely to turn out in a midterm election.

“I suspect women will feel further alienated from the Republican party,” said Liz Mair, a GOP strategist. “As far as the House, I think our guys are in a lot more trouble than they even realize.”

For President Trump, getting a second conservative justice seated on the Supreme Court has delivered him a legacy defining moment, tilting the court in a conservative direction for years to come.

But he could also face a whole host of headaches if Kavanaugh’s confirmation helps power a ‘blue wave’ in the House, with House Democrats in a position to launch hearings, investigations, subpoenas and even impeachment proceedings against Trump.

“Democrats will have the last laugh,” Bannon said. “What’s good for Kavanaugh is bad for Republicans. When he gets confirmed, it will jack up the Democratic base and just accelerate a process that is already going on, which is going to hurt Republicans big time.”

Female suburban voters, who are already fired up by the “Me Too” movement and furious with Trump, are expected to form a crucial voting bloc in November.

That’s because the path to the House majority runs through suburban swing districts, where Republicans are defending dozens of vulnerable seats — including some that went for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.

Democrats need to flip 23 seats to win back the House after losing their majority in 2010, and the president’s party historically loses around 30 seats in the midterms.

In a potentially damning sign for Republicans, a recent poll from PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist showed that 52 percent of women believe that Ford is telling the truth, while just 27 percent side with Kavanaugh.

And Trump’s comments mocking Ford and bashing the protesters, many of whom were victims of sexual assault, did little to help the situation, according to strategists.

“Already outraged women across the country, and not just Democrats, but independent and moderate women, feel like the GOP doesn’t have a home for them, and that the prevalence of sexual assault is not being paid attention to,” Jayapal said.

There are already some signs that vulnerable Republicans are worried that Kavanaugh’s confirmation may hurt their own reelection races.

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) — one of the most endangered members in the House GOP caucus — posted a campaign ad on Friday touting her work combating sexual assault and harassment.

“When a congressman invited me to his house alone late one night to ‘discuss’ my internship, I declined. And the internship disappeared,” a woman says in the ad. “When I came forward to share my story, the first person to support me was Barbara Comstock.”

Republicans, however, maintain that Democrats have overplayed their hand in the Supreme Court battle, which has really galvanized and unified their party for the first time this election cycle.

Bolstering their argument, the PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll shows that the enthusiasm gap, where Democrats have long held the edge, has been essentially been wiped out in the wake of the Kavanaugh fight.

That could give the GOP a shot in the arm in the Senate, where a number of Republican candidates are vying to take down Democratic incumbents in red states that Trump won in 2016.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who voted against Kavanaugh, is trailing her opponent Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) by 12 percentage points, according to a Fox News poll released this week.

But some strategists point out that the Republicans who are most fired up over this issue are mainly concentrated in areas that were already solid or tilting red, like North Dakota.

And they also question whether the GOP’s energy can last another four weeks, especially with Kavanaugh already on the bench and given the fast pace of the news cycle.

“People don’t go to the polls to say thanks,” Mair said. “In some respects, Republicans would be a bit better off if we weren’t going into the election with Kavanaugh on the court, having this as an outstanding issue, and giving people a reason to vote.”

Tags Barbara Comstock Donald Trump Heidi Heitkamp Hillary Clinton Joe Manchin Kevin Cramer Pramila Jayapal
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