Republicans are in peril as the FBI investigates sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Both GOP and Democratic strategists believe that voters will punish Republicans if Kavanaugh is not confirmed, blaming them for having little to show for controlling the White House and both houses of Congress for nearly two years.
"If they don’t get Kavanaugh through, I wouldn’t bother showing up for work on November 7th," David Bozell, president of the conservative group ForAmerica, told the Washington Examiner. "Most of them will be out of jobs, because of losing on November the 6th,"
"They’ve have had many, many chances now as a majority to do some things, deliver on their promises, honor those promises and they’ve fumbled those opportunities. A lot of work has been put in within the GOP, the White House and millions in the conservative movement. Forget voter totals, donor money could dry up. I could see donor money drying up if you can’t get Kavanaugh through."
"Failure to confirm Kavanaugh would be seen by a substantial portion of the Republican base as a betrayal of the party's promise to appoint strong, proven conservatives to the Supreme Court, and would certainly hurt turnout among those voters in November's midterms," said Michael Steel, a managing director at Hamilton Place Strategies and former aide to John Boehner when he was House speaker.
Some Republicans, however, cite polling in states won by President Trump in 2016 that indicates Kavanaugh is popular and Democrats seeking re-election could face a backlash if they block him. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia face this dilemma.
Trump is standing by Kavanaugh and insists he is not considering a replacement for the nominee. He told reporters Saturday that he doesn't "need a backup plan."
Democrats view the Kavanaugh saga as one misstep after another by Senate Republicans, particularly after principal accuser Christine Blasey Ford's testimony last week that was widely viewed as credible. Some argued that Republicans had "once again" alienated women who already felt the GOP did not have their interests at heart.
"From what I saw, many voters felt that they were not heard and the voices of women were left out of the process," Joe Fuld, founder and president of the Campaign Workshop, a Democratic consulting firm, told the Washington Examiner.
"There were so many missteps by the Republicans, you need to write a book, not an article," said Fuld, who was Northeast political director at the Democratic National Committee. "These hearings continue to make voters feel that dysfunction among elected leaders is getting worse and they will take their concerns to the voting booth this fall."
Kavanaugh's fate hinges on the FBI's findings. During last week's contentious hearing, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee repeatedly argued for an FBI investigation.
Republican strategists branded this as a Democratic delay tactic and said Republicans were caught off guard. They also don't think Democrats will be satisfied with just investigation but will demand additional probes.
"Some of these Republicans, especially some of these on the committee, look stunned that Democrats are fighting this hard," Bozell said. "This has been the Democrats' m.o. for a number of years. They are going to stall, delay, pound their fists, and threaten. I don’t see what is happening to their precious Senate."
Bozell charged that Democrats will not be content whatever the FBI finds and reports back to the Senate.
"If the FBI came back and found nothing, they would have complained that of course that is Trump’s FBI — consider the source. They’d be screaming conspiracy. They’d be screaming independent counsel," Bozell said. "The FBI was just the next play in the playbook. They know the FBI isn't going to find anything."
Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, characterized the hearings and the investigation as the result of extremist Democrats trying to placate their most liberal voters.
"It is just another front in the Resist movement. I think what we have seen in the confirmation process is fulfilling [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer’s promise to delay," she said. "You’ve got everything from people making violent threats of rape against Senator [Susan] Collins' staff. You’ve got people who were sending out senators' phone numbers and senators' family members ere getting scammed with calls."
"There were the childish pranks of walking out of committee. There were 200 arrests. This is embarrassing to the Senate. Anyone ought to be able to agree that this sets a horrible standard. This is the extremist Democratic party pandering to the far Left of their base."
After making it through more than of 30 hours of questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh was poised to make it through the confirmation process in time to be seated before the court started the fall term, which kicked off Monday.
But his confirmation hit a roadblock after three women came forward with allegations against Kavanaugh of sexual assault, excessive drinking, and aggressive behavior while the nominee was at Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda, Md., and Yale University.
Ford appeared before the Judiciary Committee last week and gave emotional testimony that Kavanaugh held her down on a bed, covered her mouth with his hand, and forcibly tried to remove her clothing at a high school party in the summer of 1982, when she was 15 and he was 17.
Kavanaugh angrily rejected Ford's claims and admonished Democrats for conducting a "search and destroy" mission. The Judiciary Committee narrowly approved a full vote on Kavanaugh's nomination, but the judge faced an immediate setback when Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a retiring Republican, called for a weeklong delay so the FBI could investigate Ford's allegations.
Trump ordered the FBI to investigate Ford's allegations Friday, giving the bureau seven days to conduct an expedited investigation. After the FBI finishes, all 100 Senators are due to vote on Kavanaugh's nomination. Unless a Democrat like Heitkamp or Manchin breaks ranks, Republicans can only sustain one defection and still get Kavanaugh through. In the event of a 50-50 deadlock Vice President Mike Pence will act as the tie-breaking vote.
Ford first detailed her allegations in a letter to Feinstein's staff after the president announced Kavanaugh was his nominee. Feinstein held on to the letter, claiming she kept it confidential at the request of Ford, whose identity was later revealed in media reports following Kavanaugh's initial hearing.
"Look, if Feinstein had asked back in July for an FBI investigation — sure," said Severino. "The value of the FBI investigation is having the claims made public. This is why you sequester a jury so they are not affected by the outside. The Democrats blew that up and did so intentionally. They did that by leaking things to the media. It is clearly a delay tactic, if they were interested in the FBI investigation they would have put that out first. Or they would have carried out the investigation as soon as Ford’s claim came forward."