By Alex Roarty and Katie Glueck
McClatchy Washington Bureau
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) “Democrats hope the Republican support of Brett Kavanaugh despite the sexual assault allegations against him will push those women further to the left, enough to offset any sustained gains in Republican enthusiasm.”
The prolonged and contentious fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court has energized Republican voters angry at the new justice’s perceived mistreatment.
But after Kavanaugh’s confirmation Saturday, Democrats are hoping they can rebound ahead of November’s election –– with one particular group of voters leading the way.
No voter bloc will be more closely watched in the coming weeks than that comprising college-educated women, voters who had already become more Democratic since Donald Trump’s election.
Now, Democrats hope the Republican support of Brett Kavanaugh despite the sexual assault allegations against him will push those women further to the left, enough to offset any sustained gains in Republican enthusiasm.
“If there’s a silver line in this Trump horror, it’s our voters understand exactly what the stakes are,” said Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster. “(Christine Blasey) Ford’s testimony hit a deep vein among women. They’re not going to forget. They’re going to take action.”
It’s not a given that Democratic candidates will get a bump in support from well-educated women after the nearly three-month ordeal of Kavanaugh’s nomination to his confirmation. But the Republicans have suffered the most desertions by such voters.
The defection especially helps Democrats in the House, where the party is already targeting dozens of once-Republican suburban seats in such states as Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois and California.
Democratic strategists say those opportunities have been powered in large part by the anger many white-collar women feel toward the Republicans, and there’s still room for the Democratic Party to win even more support.
“I’m reminded of when the shoe was on the other foot and we on the Democratic side would assume after a bad cycle, “Well at least we can’t do worse with white men or whites without a college degree,” said Zac McCrary, a Democratic pollster. “But every cycle we’d find out there was a new floor with those voters.
“It feels like Republicans are in something of a free fall with college educated women,” McCrary said. “That just makes the math very difficult for them in many of the races that matter.”
That’s not to say that Democrats are necessarily in line to benefit overall from the fight over Kavanaugh. One Republican strategist said that in two surveys taken this week, he had seen significant bumps in support for Republican candidates among GOP-leaning women, who previously had been leaning Democrat.
One challenge for Republicans: maintaining their energy for another month as the Supreme Court issue fades from the national spotlight.
“You’d be amazed at the shelf life of these things,” Republican pollster Robert Blizzard said before the 50-48 Senate vote. “If he gets confirmed Saturday, I don’t know if we’re still talking about this in two weeks. We could be, if we think it’s a big enough impact where we start using it in messaging, maybe, but right now it’s hard to tell.”
Several candidates have already put the issue into ads, and conservative activists expressed optimism that this will remain a front-burner issue, one capable of energizing their base, through Election Day.
“I have noticed an amazing spike in engagement and energy on the side of conservatives,” said Penny Nance, the head of the socially conservative organization Concerned Women for America. “Our phones have been ringing off the hook, people are signing up to join_I haven’t seen this kind of energy since before the last election. Maybe not even then.
“What I’m observing is, the grass roots have woken up,” she said “I think there’s going to be a ‘Remember Kavanaugh’ rallying cry from the right going into the election. People are very angry.”
Tim Chapman, the executive director of the prominent conservative group Heritage Action, said his activists would engage in “a heavy round of thank yous” to the members who voted to confirm Kavanaugh, and that the organization is “actively exploring whether we need to take paid ads on it.”
Conservative activists, Chapman said, think Democrats “just hijacked the #MeToo movement and used it to politically assassinate this judge. So I think that’s something that has staying power, I think it should have staying power. People should remember that when they go to the polls this fall. Our activists across the country know it in their bones.”
(Adam Wollner contributed to this report.)