WASHINGTON — One of Republicans’ biggest selling points on the campaign trail is the record pace of conservative federal judges the Senate has confirmed since Donald Trump became president.
But with the scandals surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh putting his confirmation on thin ice, the fear of failure is hanging over the heads of many Republicans in tough election bids this November.
The Republican Party base rallied around Trump in 2016 in part because of the near-yearlong Supreme Court vacancy held open by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the wake of the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Now, the GOP must contend with Kavanaugh’s confirmation potentially falling apart, a move that could be fatal for enthusiasm among the Republican base.
Republican aides and operatives fear an already unenthusiastic base of GOP voters could be discouraged by Senate Republicans’ failure to shepherd Kavanaugh through and onto the Supreme Court.
GOP aides told Business Insider that it’s do or die with Kavanaugh, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear was their highest priority on the Senate floor Monday.
“It remains beyond reasonable dispute that Judge Kavanaugh’s legal brilliance and excellence on the bench make him one of the very most qualified Supreme Court nominees in the history of our country,” he said. “All these facts are quite clearly on one side. Maybe that’s why the Democrats are so panicked. Maybe that’s why they are so willing to try to bring down this nominee.”
“I want to make it perfectly clear — Judge Kavanaugh will be voted on here on the Senate floor,” McConnell added. “Up or down, on the Senate floor, this fine nominee to the Supreme Court will receive a vote in this Senate in the near future.”
And it is not just the political class sounding the alarm about losing the core group of voters Republicans depend on to turnout in November. Right wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh warned Republicans of the consequences of not confirming Kavanaugh by Election Day.
“If the Republicans do not get this vote taken and have Kavanaugh confirmed, you can kiss the midterms goodbye,” Limbaugh said on his radio show Monday. “You can kiss goodbye holding the House and you can kiss goodbye holding the Senate. Because whatever the Democrats think of their base, the one thing I know that if you guys fold on this and cave and keep bending over backwards.”
Republican voters are already unenthusiastic going into the November midterm elections
An internal Republican Party poll reflects an already poor environment for the GOP’s chances in November.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported that the Republican National Committee survey showed many GOP voters simply do not believe the trends and data showing big advantages for Democrats heading into the midterms. Instead, half of Republican voters believe Trump when he talks about a “red wave” in 2018.
And as Bloomberg Businessweek reported, the internal report tells Republican officials that they “need to make real the threat that Democrats have a good shot of winning control of Congress,” or suffer the consequences.
As a result, Republicans are pulling out all the stops to get behind the embattled nominee.
The Judicial Crisis Network, a group that has put millions behind courting public opinion in confirming both Kavanaugh and Trump’s previous Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch, is in the midst of a $1.5 million campaign defending him. Ahead of the hearing in which both Kavanaugh and his accuser are slated to testify on Thursday, the conservative activist group FreedomWorks is holding a Wednesday rally outside the US Capitol with Republican lawmakers.
And Kavanaugh himself went on Fox News to try to clear his name in a highly irregular television appearance for a nominee to such a high office.
“The truth is I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone, in high school or otherwise,” Kavanaugh told Fox host Martha MacCallum. “I am not questioning and have not questioned that perhaps Dr. Ford at some point in her life was sexually assaulted by someone at some place, but what I know is I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone.”