Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation fight is now a matter for the history books. Justice Kavanaugh has already been sworn in and will join the other justices when the Supreme Court reopens on Tuesday. The next question to consider is how the bruising battle to confirm Kavanaugh will impact the midterm elections, now less than a month away.
The past week has brought positive polling news for Republicans that was almost certainly related to the Kavanaugh hearings. First, polling showed thatin recent months, finally catching up to that of the Democrats. Following on that news, the moved three Senate races to more favor the Republican candidates. In one case, the race for Democratic Sen. Jon Testor’s seat in Montana, shifting polls give the GOP a chance to flip a Democrat seat. Jon Testor’s vote against Kavanaugh in deep red Montana may sway voters against him in the tossup election.
While Kavanaugh’s confirmation is good news for Republicans and their base, the bad news for Republicans is that they failed to make the case to voters that Kavanaugh should have been confirmed.’s analysis of Kavanaugh’s approval rating showed that the judge was moderately popular when he was first nominated, but that his approval was already falling when Christine Blasey Ford made her accusation against him on Sept. 16. After the accusation, Kavanaugh’s approval fell below 50 percent and never recovered.
Kavanaugh’s approval rating fell with all demographics except Republicans, where he became more popular after the Ford accusation. Unsurprisingly, the largest drop was among Democrats, but Kavanaugh also had a net disapproval among independents. Ominously for Republicans, Kavanaugh’s approval fell among both men and women. The judge’s approval was still positive by about five points among men but was negative by 15 points among women.
It is the reaction of women that may tell the tale of the 2018 midterms. Even before the Kavanaugh accusations, the GOP was in big trouble with female voters. Many analysts, such as Dave Wasserman of thealready predicted that 2018 would be the “year of the angry female college graduate.” Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation will do little to cool the tempers of angry women.
It must be remembered that the 2018 midterms are not one election, but rather a series of local and state elections. How the Kavanaugh confirmation affects the election will depend on the local electorate. In the case of red state Senate Democrats, opposition to Kavanaugh could hurt the incumbents and possibly tip some races to the Republicans.
Beyond red state Democrats, it becomes a question of which group is more motivated by Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Republicans voters will be inspired to reward their party for standing firm. For Democrat voters, the goal will be to prevent another conservative justice from being appointed in the event that Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Stephen Breyer leave the Court.
Thus far, President Trump’s appointments have had minimal effect on the balance of the Court. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh replaced the constitutionalist Scalia and the nominally conservative Anthony Kennedy. However, if President Trump appoints a replacement for Ginsburg or Breyer, two liberals who are also the oldest justices, the Court could veer sharply to the right. Preventing such a conservative movement would be a prime motivation for the left. To do so, they would need to win the Senate in 2018 and the presidency in 2020.
Brett Kavanaugh has already given Republicans a shot in the arm by boosting enthusiasm for the midterms, but he has also given Democrats a powerful reason to get out the vote. The fact that Republicans pushed Kavanaugh through against popular opinion may cost the GOP the votes of some independents and moderates. If the election is about the turning out the base then Republicans may gain an advantage from Kavanaugh. However, if voter anger spreads and independents are motivated to turn out in large numbers, the advantage will likely go to the Democrats.
Originally published on