GOP Senate candidate: Kavanaugh 'debacle' 'hugely motivating' to Missouri voters

Missouri Senate candidate Josh Hawley (R) said Sunday that the treatment of Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughManchin not ruling out endorsing Trump reelection Impeachment fallout threatens to upend battle for Senate Tlaib says she held Omar's hand during 'triggering' moments at Trump's State of the Union speech MORE during his confirmation hearing will be "hugely motivating" to Republican voters in next month's midterm elections.

"I do think the debacle with Justice Kavanaugh, what the Senate Democrats did in that case is hugely motivating to Missouri voters," Hawley said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"They cannot believe the conduct of these Senate Democrats, they cannot believe the smear campaign that they launched, and by the way how they drug Dr. [Christine Blasey] Ford through the mud as well," Hawley added, echoing a line of attack used by Republican leaders in recent weeks.

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Hawley, the current attorney general in Missouri, is running to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats criticize Medal of Freedom for Limbaugh as 'slap in the face' Kansas City, Kan., responds to Trump tweet: We root for the Chiefs, too Trump mocked for Super Bowl tweet confusing Missouri for Kansas MORE (D) in a state President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE won by nearly 20 points in 2016.

A RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Hawley with a narrow 0.4 percentage point lead over McCaskill.

Asked about his brief stint as attorney general before launching a Senate campaign, Hawley argued that he felt compelled to run because "the future of our country is at stake," citing the Kavanaugh hearings as an example.

Hawley also cited ballooning health-care costs as a motivating issue for Missouri voters. He said he would support repealing the Affordable Care Act if elected, but asserted he'd like Congress to mandate insurance companies to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Republican leaders have argued that the bitter fight surrounding Kavanaugh's confirmation will unite GOP voters in November. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case MORE (R-Ky.), Trump and others have cited the handling of sexual misconduct allegations against the judge as a rallying point.

Ford testified last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and groped her during a party when the two were in high school. Two other women later came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

The judge denied the claims, and was ultimately confirmed in a 50-48 Senate vote.