Trump, GOP aim to weaponize Kavanaugh vote ahead of November

 
 
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.
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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.
 
McConnell told The Hill in an interview Saturday that he was thrilled that his GOP colleagues weren’t “intimidated by the mob that descended on the Capitol and harassed our members at their homes and in the halls,” predicting the all-out brawl over Kavanaugh would ultimately help unify Republicans and electrify GOP voters.
 
“I’m doubly upbeat after this Supreme Court fight, which has been like a shot of adrenaline in our campaigns,” he added in the interview.
 
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.
 
Instead, McConnell shot down talk of Kavanaugh withdrawing and GOP leadership stayed in continuous contact with the group of senators that they knew would ultimately decide if he was confirmed: GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRepublicans up for reelection fear daylight with Trump The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget 12 Republican senators defy Trump on emergency declaration  MORE (Alaska) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcSally to back Trump on emergency declaration Flake: Biden 'strikes fear in a lot of Republicans' Press: Which way do Dems go in 2020? MORE (Ariz.).
 
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.
 
In most of those races Democrats are trying to hold on to seats in red and purple states that Trump won in the 2016 election. But in Tennessee and Arizona, seats are being vacated by retiring GOP Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerBrexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 MORE (Tenn.) and Flake, and Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds MORE (R-Nev.) is the only Republican incumbent running for reelection in a state won by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP lawmaker defends Chelsea Clinton after confrontation over New Zealand attacks Klobuchar: Race, gender should not be litmus tests for 2020 Dem nominee Kirsten Gillibrand officially announces White House run MORE.
 
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.
 
Indiana GOP Senate nominee Mike Braun and the NRSC are seizing on reports that Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers MORE (D-Calif.) sent an email raising money for Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE’s (D-Ind.) campaign over his opposition to Kavanaugh. Josh Kelley, a spokesman for Braun, called Donnelly and Harris “media circus Democrats” that are trying to “smear” Kavanaugh, and accused Donnelly of “cashing in” on his opposition “to advance his political career.”
 
The North Dakota Republicans accused Democratic Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampAnnual scorecard ranks GOP environmental efforts far below Dems in 2018 Overnight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (N.D.) of opposing Kavanaugh and taking an “anti-life, anti-Second Amendment, and anti-North Dakota vote” to “appease her liberal Democratic base.” Heitkamp touted her work on behalf of women when she announced her opposition, noting that if she was making a “political decision” she would have supported Kavanaugh.
 
 
“A real profile in courage. ... Waited until [Kavanaugh] had enough votes secured before he announced his support. I bet he had another press release ready to go if Collins went the other way,” Trump Jr. wrote.
 
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.
 
But an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released earlier this week, at the height of the Kavanaugh fight, found that Democrats' 10-point enthusiasm advantage had shrunk to 2 points.
 
Sen. John CornynJohn CornynJulian Castro hints at brother Joaquin's Senate run Joaquin Castro closing in on 2020 Senate bid: report Five questions for Beto O'Rourke MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said the midterms would be “hotly contested” and that he believes tactics by Democrats would backfire on them.
 
“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.”