It is a lovely autumn Wednesday afternoon and Blogger Candidate Forum is on baby sitting duty, literally. Fortunately, the very angelic baby Yours Truly is keeping an eye on is fast asleep, which gives Blogger a few minutes of quiet to write.
If you are Mr. Donald Trump right now, the third degree burn of being laugh at during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly has to really hurt. Strangely, he has not tweeted about it, yet (the operative word). Meanwhile, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is meeting with the President tomorrow, to discuss his future. The likely scenario is DAG Rosenstein and AG Jeff Sessions stay on until after the midterm elections. That would actually be the best option if Mr. Trump wants to avoid anymore scandal affecting his already scandal-prone administration. Finally, a third woman has stepped forward to accuse Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Julie Swetnick, a client of Michael Avenatti, submitted a signed statement that, as a high school student, Judge Kavanaugh engaged in drunkeness and abusive behavior towards female classmates. Judge Kavanaugh and his principle accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, are scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee and answer questions from Arizona sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell. Committee chair Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) scheduled a vote on Friday. Regardless, of what happens between now and Friday, the controversy surrounding the Kavanaugh nomination is already having an impact on the upcoming midterm elections. Shall we have a look.
The headline in Tuesday's Business Insider (businessinsider.com; Sept. 25, 2018; date accessed Sept. 26, 2018) said it best, "'You can kiss the midterms goodbye:' Republicans fear for their election fate if Democrats defeat Brett Kavanaugh." House of Representatives and Senate Republicans, facing re-election, are quaking in their collective boots over the possibility that failure of Kavanaugh nomination could hurt their chances to retain their majority in Congress.
Breaking news: the Los Angeles Times (latimes.com) is report Mr. Trump has expressed his preference to retain DAG Rod Rosenstein and may delay their anticipated meeting until after the Kavanaugh hearing.
Reporter Joe Perticone writes, "The Republican Party base rallied around Trump in 2016 in part because of the nearly yearlong Supreme Court vacancy held open by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Now, the GOP must contend with the possibility of Kavanaugh's confirmation falling apart, a move that could be fatal for enthusiasm among the Republican base." Or generate a backlash toward Democrats hoping to retake one or both houses of Congress. Regardless, it is do-or-die time for Senate Republicans hoping to "plow through" and get an up-or-down vote on Judge Kavanaugh.
Conservative pundits are also sounding the alarm. No less than Rush Limbaugh told his loyal listeners on Monday,
If the Republicans do not get this vote taken and have Kavanaugh confirmed, you can kiss the midterms goodbye.... You can kiss goodbye the House, and you can kiss goodbye holding the Senate. Because whatever the Democrats think if their base,none thing I know,that if you guys fold on this and cave and keep bending overt backwards... you've done that enough.
Mr. Limbaugh's exhortations aside, the Republican Party was already teetering in the polls. The Kavanaugh nomination was supposed to energize the Republicans. After all, what is not love about a well qualified and respected jurist, right? If that jurist has, how shall Blogger put it, a history, then the Republicans have a problem. The problem is with suburban women. Suburban women are the key to this campaign and many are already leaning Democratic because of their contempt for the President. Jonathan Martin of The New York Times writes, "If Republicans are too harsh in questioning of Dr. Blasey, they risk inviting an even greater backlash at the ballot box in an election where their House majority is in peril and their one-vote Senate majority is teetering" (nytimes.com; Sept. 23, 2018; date accessed Sept. 26, 2018).
Factor in that a record number of women are standing for election, their voices and their female supporters could ring loudly in highly competitive races in Arizona, Missouri, Florida, and New Jersey in support of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when she testifying tomorrow. Her accusations make more hard for GOP candidates to use Judge Kavanaugh as a way to excoriate Democats who fail to support him. Representive Jay Barnes (R-MS) told the Times, I think the assault allegations neutralize the Kavanaugh situation. This observation is shared by a wide range of GOP leaders.
What worries Rep. Barnes and others is unabashed support from Republican candidates: such as Josh Hawley, the Missouri state attorney general who is locked in a tight Senate race with incumbent Claire McCaskill. What is keeping Republicans up at night is that his, and Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-S.D) who is challenging Senator Heidi Heitkamp, unflinching supports for Judge Kavanaugh would come back to haunt them. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has already come under fire for dismissing the accusations as hiccup.
Senate Republicans and, by extension, House Republicans, are taking a huge electoral risk on Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Chris Cillizza writes, "Amid the cultural upheaval of the #MeToo moment and with an election looming less than seven weeks' time, Republicans are daring a woman alleging sexual assault against a nominee for the country's highest court to either put up or shut up" (cnn.com; Sept. 19, 2018; date accessed Sept. 26, 2018). Driving all of this is the calendar: The new Supreme Court term begins on October 4 and midterms are November 6. From a political perspective, there is a very chance that the Republicans will lose control of the Senate. If this possibility comes true, "Republicans would have to try to force Kavanaugh's confirmation through in the lame-duck session held between the election and the swearing in of the new Congress. A Democratic-controlled Senate would almost certainly refuse to vote Kavanaugh through--particularly after the stalling tactics Republicans put in place when President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the court in 2016" (Ibid).
Two more things complicating this calculus: the sinking polling numbers of Mr. Trump and Anita Hill. During the 2016 campaign, then-candidate Trump openly bragged about committing sexual assault despite multiple allegations. The latest CNN-SSRS poll (Ibid; Sept. 10, 2018) "...just 29% of women approved of the job Trump was in office while 65% disapproved. More tellingly, 57% strongly disapproved of how Trump was doing the job. That speaks to a level of vitriol (and passion) that traditionally, translates into major turnout in the coming election" (cnn.com; Sept. 19, 2018)
Anita Hill. The specter of her brutal interrogation continues, to haunt the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearing of Justice Clarence Thomas. Ms. Hill, a law professor at Brandeis University, alleged that Justice Thomas behaves inappropriately during her employment at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. As an attempt to de-politicize the process, Committee Republicans hired Rachel Mitchell to interrogate Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. The Committee Democrats will ask their own.
Bottom line, there are no real satisfying electoral implications from this process. If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, then the consequences will be swift. The energized female voters will look at it as "nothing's changed" since Anita Hill. If the Kavanaugh nomination is rejected, the Republican base will also be angry--call it political correctness run amok--take it out on candidates that failed to support Judge Brett Kavanaugh. What is certain is that the upcoming elections will be a referendum on the President and, right now, things look bad, bigly.