Blogger Candidate Forum is back at its regular day and time. The recently completed Supreme Court confirmation process had the United States Senate under the microscope, focusing on howthe individual members voted and why is already having repercussions that will affect the upcoming midterm elections on NOVEMBER 6th. For example, North Dakota incumbent Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D) told an interviewer that she originally planned to vote yes but changed her vote after observing Justice Kavanaugh's belligerent demeanor during the second round of hearings. Senator Heitkamp was running an issues-oriented campaign, putting her ahead of challenger Representive Kevin Cramer (R). Then came the accusations and the contentious hearings. Now, Senator Heitkamp finds herself in fight for her political life. The Candidate Forum would like to take a look at just how the confirmation process will impact the Democrats' chances for retaking majority control.
Let us begin with the current state of the 36 active Senate races. Of the 26 Democrats standing for re-election, 14 Senators are safe. Senate Judiciary Committee members Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) are well on their way to re-election. It should be noted, that California is no danger of losing a Democratic seat; Senator Feinstein's challenger is Democratic State Senator Kevin de Léon. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin are among the four who are likely to hold onto their seats. New Jersey's controversial Senator Robert Menéndez, West Virginia's Senator Joe Manchin, and Minnesota's Tina Smith might retain their seats. Senator Smith was chosen to replace disgraced Senator Al Franken and Senator Manchin crossed party lines to vote in favor of Justice Kavanaugh. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jon Tester (D-MT), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Senator Heitkamp are in the electorial danger zone.
The are nine Republican seats up for re-election. Texas incumbent Senator Ted is locked in an extremely tight race with challenger Repreentative Beto O'Rourke. Mr. O'Rourke has become an electoral rock star, of sorts, thanks to a lively social media campaign. Senator Cruz's chances of re-election are not a sure thing and Mr. O'Rourke is good position to flip the seat. The races in Arizona, Utah, and Tennessee are toss ups. Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R-UT) is likely to hold the Republican seat. The race between Martha McSally (R) and Kyrsten Sinema (D) is getting tighter; current polls show Ms. McSally gaining ground on on Ms. Sinema. Mississippi Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith is likely to retain her seat. Senators Frederick Wicker (MS), Debra Fischer (NE), and John Barrasso (WY), and Utah's other open seat are all in safe electoral territory.
If The Forum were to make a prediction, the Democrats are likely to pick up about six seats but not enough to recapture the majority. The question now is how has the senators' vote on Justice Kavanaugh's confirmation changed the calculus of the races.
The short answer is Republican campaigns for the United States Senate have been energized, as well as the Democratic campaigns. The majority of voters in Texas, Tennessee, Arizona, New Jersey told CBS News that they were motivated to get out and vote (vox.com; Oct. 8, 2018; date accessed Oct. 10, 2018). A CBS poll conducted by YouGov between October 2nd and 5th, just before the final vote last Saturday revealed that voter motivation correlated to which way their state politically leaned.
In Tennessee, 47 percent of voters said they wanted Kavanaugh confirmed, while 30 percent did not. In Texas, 43 percent approved of Kavanaugh's confirmation and 35 percent did not. In Arizona, it was much closer, with 41 percent wanting him confirmed and 39 percent opposed. And in New Jersey, 38 percent of voters wanted Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, while 44 percent did not. (Ibid).
One thing that remained consistent is "...the Kavanaugh motivation seems to align with the state's political leanings more broadly" (Ibid). In the heated race between Senator Cruz and Rep. O'Rourke, "...73 percent of Republicans say Kavanaugh's nomination made them more energized, compared to 69 percent of Democrats" (Ibid). We can compare these numbers to the ones in the Arizona race. "In Arizona,..., 63 percent of both Democrats and Republicans said they were more motivated by Kavanaugh" (Ibid).
However, CBS News also revealed a group of voters were newly enthused about voting by the confirmation battle. Overall, "One in five people who said they were energized by Kavanaugh's nomination didn't report voting in the 2010 and 2014 midterm" (Ibid). According to CBS:
...In the Arizona Senate race, Democrats may benefit electorally from the confirmation. Among the likely Arizona voters who said they might still change their minds about who to support, 30 percent said Kavanaugh's confirmation would make them more likely to consider voting for a Democrat, while 10 percent said the same for a Republican. (Ibid)
The next question is how will the Kavanaugh nomination play out this year beyond? The short answer is it remains to be seen. Without a doubt the battle over Justice Kavanaugh's confirmation was one of the most bruising fights in recent history. The Republicans appear to be more energized about going to the polls on NOVEMBER 6 than in previous election cycles. Vox's Dylan Scott points out that while the Republicans' chances of maintaining control of the Senate have improved, but in the House of Representatives contests, it is a whole different ball game:
Republicans might be improving their odds of keeping the Senate, where the GOP base will be crucial--several vulnerable Democrats were up for reelection in states that Trump won in 2016 and where he still remains popular. But the Supreme Court fight might not help as much in the House elections, where suburban swing districts--and swing voters, women in particular--will decide who controls the chamber. (Ibid)
The bottom line is this, the fight over Justice Kavanaugh's confirmation excited voters but will it be enough to sway races in battleground states? Hard to say but if you do not vote, you might not have any cause to complain November 7th.