McHENRY, Ill.A Democratic congressman from a critical Midwestern battleground said explosive hearings to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh were a drag on his party’s momentum heading into the midterm elections.

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., in suburban Chicago Thursday to campaign for the Democratic nominee in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District, said his party’s bid to flip control of the House was quickly back on track after what he described as a brief hiccup. But Kildee conceded that the Kavanaugh affair might have benefited House Republicans, because it shifted the focus away from President Trump.

“For a moment, it took the country’s attention off of these other large questions, about the president’s performance, the Republican leadership’s willingness to embrace him and abdicate their own ideology,” Kildee told the Washington Examiner. “So it may have had, not so much of changing the conversation or changing the trajectory, but distracting from what had been the over-arching theme.”

Kavanaugh was headed for an easy confirmation in the Republican-run Senate when his nomination was rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct decades ago when he was a teenager. None of his accusers offered corroborating evidence, but Senate Democrats used the charges to try and derail his nomination. The episode divided the country, exciting the Democratic Party's liberal base but awakening what had been a complacent, dispirited Republican electorate.

For Democratic Senate candidates running in red states, the issue could turn out to be a death knell, ensuring GOP control of the chamber for another two years. In the House, some Democratic candidates that appeared ahead in districts drawn to favor the Republicans suddenly found themselves in tighter races. Some political prognosticators reduced their forecasts for Democratic gains.

However, many Democratic House campaigns now feel like they are back in command. Democrats topped the Republicans on the generic ballot by more than 7.5 percentage points, and are in contention to capture approximately three-dozen, GOP-held seats on Nov. 6. Illinois’ 14th District, outside of Chicago, is a good example of why Democrats like their prospects in the final days of the campaign.

Inside Elections, a nonpartisan political handicapper, rates Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren’s re-election as “lean Republican,” and Democratic insiders acknowledging that the party’s nominee, Lauren Underwood, faces somewhat tough odds than some of her colleagues in more competitive districts.

But the charismatic Underwood, well-funded and backed by energized supporters, has put a GOP seat in play that is usually not competitive, in the process stretching the Republicans thin where they are most endangered.

Nathan Gonzales, publisher of Inside Elections, is projecting Democratic gains of 25 – 35 seats, enough to win the House. With so many critical contests in “tossup” territory, according to the most recent data, Democrats are expressing cautious optimism. That’s their public refrain, at least.

“I do think we have good momentum,” Kildee said, after headlining a roundtable on climate change and the environment for Underwood. “The thing that we have to be aware of is, our potential majority is going to rely on winning a lot of seats that are now within a point or two either way. So, it does feel like we could be could be in the majority; there’s a very strong sense that we’re in position to do that. But we have to finish; lots of races that are really close.”