Why Kavanaugh case will kill Republicans in the midterms

Last week, we saw one of the most emotional and vexing hearings that the Senate has held in recent memory. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her at a high school party in 1982, followed by testimony from Judge Kavanaugh himself.

Kavanaugh cleared the committee by a party line vote of 11-10 on Friday. Yet, Republicans subsequently decided to halt a Senate floor vote until the FBI conducts a final investigation into these salacious and if true, disqualifying, allegations. While any conclusion to this process remains unclear, it is important to recognize that what occurred on Thursday only hurts Republicans, potentially fatally, in the coming elections.

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A Politico/Morning Consult poll reported on Wednesday that 37 percent of voters oppose the Kavanaugh nomination, with 34 percent supporting it and 29 percent having no opinion. To be clear, I have no doubt about the sincerity of both Kavanaugh and Ford. Each of them made compelling presentations. Yet, the activism against Kavanaugh made clear the deep emotional animosity that some voters feel.

“Don’t look away from me,” said Maria Gallagher, the protester who confronted and eviscerated Senator Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeDemocrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE of Arizona before the committee vote. “Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me, that you will let people like that go into the highest court of the land and tell everyone what they can do to their bodies.”

The motivation and enthusiasm from people on this issue will be front and center less than 40 days from now, when Americans turn out to vote in the midterms. According to a Pew Research poll released last week, 76 percent of registered voters say appointments to the Supreme Court will be very important to their vote this fall and, as of this moment, is ranked as more important than health care or the economy.

Republicans, no matter how sincere they may seem or how aggrieved Kavanaugh appeared to feel, have been tone deaf on key issues related to women, especially the right to choose an abortion and protection from or justice for sexual harassment. Around 81 percent of women report being sexually harassed at some point in their lives. While it is unclear to me what a week long FBI investigation will do, as it appears everyone with knowledge of the alleged behavior has submitted a statement, other witnesses could be unearthed to offer dispositive comments.

Indeed, this is really about political cover for Republicans. After the contentious hearings and polarizing dialogue, they need the rest of the week and the cover of the FBI to get Flake and his moderate Republican colleagues, Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Klobuchar, Murkowski introduce legislation to protect consumer health data MORE of Alaska and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates Democratic challenger to Susan Collins announces Senate bid MORE of Maine, to confirm their votes for Kavanaugh. Collins and Murkowski have repeatedly expressed concern over the allegations. Flake, after being confronted by protesters, expressed support for an FBI investigation, saying, “We ought to do what we can to make sure we do all due diligence with a nomination this important.” He added, “This country is being ripped apart here.”

But make no mistake, even if the FBI gives Kavanaugh a clean bill of health for his nomination, this will play out to the detriment of Republicans who already are down by 7 points to 8 points in the generic ballot for Congress. Republicans may have saved themselves from committing harakiri with their last minute decision to involve the FBI, but it is unclear whether that will do more than delay a slow death for a longer period.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. A longtime political consultant, he is also a Fox News contributor and the author of 11 books, including “Putin’s Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.”