Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., just juked his Republican challengers with an ankle-breaking crossover. The Indiana Democrat who voted to send Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court just announced he will oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

When Donnelly announced his decision, he took special care to emphasize his centrist record.

“I do not view Supreme Court vacancies through a partisan lens, which is why I have used the same thorough process to evaluate nominees regardless of who the president is at the time,” Donnelly writes. “That was the case regarding the nomination of Judge Garland and also when I voted for Justice Gorsuch, who was President Trump’s first nominee. It has remained my approach with Judge Kavanaugh.”

[Click here for complete Kavanaugh coverage]

Then Donnelly switches directions, blaming Republicans for refusing to allow an FBI investigation into the uncorroborated accusations of sexual assault leveled against Kavanaugh.

“The allegations made against Judge Kavanaugh are disturbing and credible," Donnelly wrote. "In the interest of getting as much information as possible, I believe the allegations should be investigated by the FBI. Unfortunately, despite having the time and opportunity to do so, Senator McConnell has refused to allow that FBI investigation.”

This political dribbling may end up saving Donnelly’s seat.

As David Freddoso wrote earlier this month when the allegations first surfaced, even unproven charges give Democrats an excuse to vote against the nominee. “They don't even have to act like they believe the accusation,” he predicted, “they only have to say that not enough time was spent investigating it.”

After watching the second hearing, it is obvious that this was the play from the beginning. Again and again, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Kavanaugh about whether the FBI should investigate the allegations, instead of bothering to ask detailed questions about said allegations. The hearing wasn’t about discovering the truth — it was about building a narrative.

That line of questioning has opened up a lane for Donnelly in the ever-redder Hoosier state. As Indiana journalist Adam Wren correctly notes, the no vote “will enthrall his base here in Indiana, whom he's been sideways with at times on Gorsuch.” At the same time, Donnelly won’t further alienate voters on the Right because he has a ready-made excuse. He voted for Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee. He can’t vote for his second because, Donnelly will argue, the allegations haven’t been properly investigated.

This strategy has left Republicans in a heap in Indiana. Challenger Mike Braun offered a rather tepid response, calling Donnelly's decision to oppose Kavanaugh "a grave mistake" and adding that "this entire process has been an embarrassment to our democracy." It isn't the worst argument, but Donnelly has put at least this issue to bed.