According to AP VoteCast, nearly half of voters said the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation battle was very important to their vote and they broke for the Democratic candidates. But the individual state results didn’t always reflect the national trend. (Nov. 6)
WASHINGTON – Could it be the curse of Brett Kavanaugh?
At least three red state Democrats who voted against the Supreme Court justice will no longer serve in the Senate. Their races flipped seats for Republicans, giving the GOP a greater majority and many commentators have attributed the victories to a “Kavanaugh effect.”
Kavanaugh and the bitter debate that eventually led to his confirmation ended up being one of the central and most talked about issues in this year’s historic midterm races. On both sides of the aisle, lawmakers believed the sexual assault allegations lodged against Kavanaugh – and Judiciary Committee members’ handling of them – would energize voters.
Many Democrats viewed Kavanaugh’s appointment as proof that Republicans didn’t value or respect survivors of sexual assault. Republicans, on the other hand, framed the allegations against Kavanaugh as a coordinated attack on an innocent man and accused Democrats of abandoning the presumption of innocence.
Among the states where Kavanaugh appeared to have a major impact were Indiana, North Dakota, Florida, Missouri and West Virginia.
All five were states that Trump won in 2016, and all five were home to Democratic senators running in extremely tight races.
Notably, four senators out of the five voted against Kavanaugh’s appointment to the high court. Only West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin voted for Kavanaugh. Manchin was the only among the five to hold onto his Senate seat and fend off a Republican challenger.
Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly lost to Republican Mike Braun. North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp lost to Republican Kevin Cramer. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson’s race was called for Republican Rick Scott, but the final result will likely wait on a mandatory recount. Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill lost to Republican Josh Hawley.
“These senators paid the ultimate political price for their vote,” said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at the University of California San Diego.
Kousser said while Kavanaugh and the handful of accusers, including Christine Blasey Ford, was not the only issue that affected the vote in these states, it was a large factor for voters in states like Missouri and North Dakota. ABC News reported 47 percent of voters in exit polling said Heitkamp’s vote against Kavanaugh was a major factor in how they voted.
“The people who stood up to great political peril for Christine Blasey Ford ended up facing their punishment and now, they won’t be there to stand up for those issues again in the Senate,” he said.
Kousser also pointed to polls showing support for Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, dipped after her performance during the Kavanaugh hearings.
“It’s hard to find any other explanation besides Kavanaugh,” Kousser said.
As President Donald Trump makes his way across Red States ahead of the midterm elections, he is choosing to make immigration and the opposition to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh leading issues. (Oct. 19)
But, there were a handful of Democrats in states that Trump won who survived despite voting against Kavanaugh, most notably Montana Sen. Jon Tester, showing that not all who voted down Kavanaugh in red states were defeated.
“This is obviously the major race that doesn’t fit the pattern,” Kousser said.
Democratic senators in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania were victorious, though those races weren’t considered as tight.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said voters “clearly rebuked Senate Democrats for their handling of the Kavanaugh hearings” and that his perceived treatment generated “tremendous energy” within the Republican base.
The president brought up the controversy at nearly every rally in his last-minute push for Republican candidates across the country.
In the wake of the victory, Senate Major Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Kavanaugh confirmation delivered an “adrenaline shot” to “core voters.”
“We were worried about lack of intensity on our side, and I think the Kavanaugh fight certainly provided that,” McConnell said. “It was extremely helpful.”
Senate Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, “the ‘Kavanaugh Effect’ should actually be called ‘Kavanaugh’s Revenge.’”
“Liberal Democratic Senators and activists efforts to destroy Brett Kavanaugh ended up destroying Red State Democrats,” Graham said in a statement Wednesday. “Hopefully this resounding rejection of the Kavanaugh smear campaign by voters will make it less likely that this will occur again in the future.”
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