With Republican enthusiasm rising dramatically as Democrats tried to block the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, three Senate races have shifted significantly toward the Republican candidate.
the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, moved Senate races in Montana, Nebraska and New Jersey in a GOP direction.
Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester’s race against state auditor Matt Rosendale was shifted from “lean Democratic” to “toss-up” in a state President Trump won by double-digits in 2016.
Jennifer Duffy, a Senate race analyst at Cook Political Report, said Kavanaugh’s nomination is energizing the GOP base, reminding Montanans that Tester voted against Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first nominee, and has stated he will oppose the current nominee.
top Republicans are seeing a surprising and widespread surge in GOP voter enthusiasm, powered largely by support for Kavanaugh.
“The Kavanaugh debate has dropped a political grenade into the middle of an electorate that had been largely locked in Democrats’ favor for the past six months,” said Josh Holmes, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Private polling in Montana, Indiana, West Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee, said Holmes, shows the enthusiasm shift is “unmistakable in the red states that will determine control of the Senate.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday on a conference call with major donors yesterday, Axios reported, that new party polling showed the Kavanaugh fight had awakened Republican voters in some key House districts.
“Prior to the Kavanaugh hearing, the intensity level was really on the Democratic side,” he told Fox News. “… But in the last week there has been a fundamental shift.”
‘Out of reach entirely for Democrats’
In North Dakota, a Fox News poll Thursday showed Republican challenger Kevin Cramer leading Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp by 12 points, 53 percent to 41 percent, up from four points last month.
Holmes said North Dakota “now appears out of reach entirely for Democrats.”
Cook moved New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez’s race from “likely Democratic” to “lean Democratic” and Nebraska Republican Sen. Deb Fischer’s race from “likely Republican” to “solid Republican.”
In Missouri, pollster Jim McLaughlin shows Republican Josh Hawley leading incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill by 52-44.
In McLaughlin’s previous poll, in June, McCaskill led Hawley 46-42.
McCaskill has dropped 10 points in the last month since Democrats launched their 11th hour campaign against Kavanaugh.
Republicans, with a 51-49 seat majority, have a favorable map, with 10 Democratic senators up for reelection in states Trump won.
Ohio, however, appears to have moved decisively to incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Heitkamp’s Republican rival called her announcement Thursday that she will vote against confirming Kavanaugh the “greatest political gift.”
In North Dakota, which Trump won by 40 points, a poll this week found about one-third of the states voters were “less likely” to re-elect Heitkamp if she voted no on Kavanaugh.
Explaining her vote Thursday, she said the “process has been bad but at the end of the day you have to make a decision and I’ve made that decision.”
In Tennessee, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen announced Friday morning he would support Kavanaugh’s nomination, saying he believes a senator’s responsibility to “advise and consent” is “not a license to indulge in partisanship, but should focus on the qualifications of the nominee, their ethics and their temperament.”
“I believed that Judge Kavanaugh initially met this test, and I was prepared to say ‘yes’ to his nomination prior to Dr. Ford’s coming forward,” the Democratic candidate said. “While the subsequent events make it a much closer call, and I am missing key pieces of information that a sitting Senator has, I’m still a ‘yes.‘”
Bounce in Trump approval
A Rasmussen Reports poll Friday has Trump at 51 percent approval, 48 percent disapproval.
equally significant is the president’s so-called approval index, the difference between strong approval and strong disapproval. That index now stands at -1, with 38 percent strongly approving of Trump.
By comparison, Barack Obama’s approval index was -11 at the same point in his presidency.
Hinderaker wrote that there’s no doubt Trump is experiencing a bounce from Kavanaugh, but the economy also is likely a factor.
The unemployment rate announced Friday of 3.7 percent is the lowest since 1969.
“President Trump’s is achieving, on the economy, what Barack Obama and other Democrats assured us was impossible a few years ago,” Hinderaker wrote. “Just wait until voters start to notice how successful Trump has been in the realm of foreign policy!”