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 KavanaughElection 2020: Why I'm watching Amy and Andy Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation Protesters roll out a screen playing Blasey Ford's testimony ahead of Federalist Society dinner 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 McCaskillMSNBC's McCaskill: Trump used 'his fat thumbs' to try to intimidate Yovanovitch GOP senator rips into Pelosi at Trump rally: 'It must suck to be that dumb' Iranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts MORE (D) in a state President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election 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 McConnellGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy On The Money: Trump asks Supreme Court to block Dem subpoena for financial records | Kudlow 'very optimistic' for new NAFTA deal | House passes Ex-Im Bank bill opposed by Trump, McConnell Top House Democrats ask for review of DHS appointments 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.