Trump bets on 'Brett bounce' to win US midterms
Far from damaging the Republicans, the Kavanaugh kerfuffle has galvanised their grassroots supporters, say strategists
Republicans are hoping a “Brett bounce” created by the furious battle over Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick can help them turn around their fortunes and exceed expectations at next month’s midterm elections.
Polls have suggested a recent surge in enthusiasm from Trump’s base as the fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to America’s top court became increasingly heated.
In July, Democrats had a 10-point lead over the Republicans for how many of their supporters saw the midterms as “very important”, according to one survey. That gap is now down to two points. It indicates how the Supreme Court fight has fired up Republicans and could result in more of them turning out on voting day – a crucial factor in who will win the congressional races.
It also suggests that Democrat protests may have only served to further energise the opposition. In particular, the poll boost could help in 10 Senate races where Democrats are trying to hold onto their seats in states won comfortably by Trump in the 2016 election, often by double figures.
“Prior to the Kavanaugh hearing the intensity level was really on the Democratic side,” Kevin McCarthy, a leading Republican congressman, said. “But in the last week there has been a fundamental shift.”
The optimism came as Kavanaugh was set to be confirmed as a Supreme Court judge on Sunday after a majority of US senators declared their support. It marks the end of a bruising confirmation process that has seen Kavanaugh face accusations of sexual misconduct from three women – claims he categorically denies.
Securing two judges on America’s highest court, which hands conservatives a clear majority on the bench, would be a huge achievement for Trump after just two years in office. It would help convince evangelical supporters and moderate Republicans that they were correct to stand by his unorthodox candidacy rather than disown him before the 2016 presidential vote.
However, the row has highlighted deep fault lines in American society in the wake of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, and underlined the partisan and polarised state of US politics. The impact the confirmation battle, which has gripped the country ever since the first allegations surfaced last month, will have on November’s vote remains unclear.
All members of the House of Representatives and a third of US senators are up for re-election. Republicans hold slim majorities in both bodies but that could change. If the Democrats take back control of the House, something which is seen as likely, they will be able to block Trump’s legislation and launch a string of damaging investigations into his administration.
It is a longer shot for them to take back the Senate, given far more Democrats who already hold seats are up for re-election than Republicans, but nothing is being ruled out.
However, Democrats too believe there could be political advantages from the bitter Supreme Court fight. In 1991, Clarence Thomas, another Supreme Court nominee facing a sexual misconduct claim, was confirmed despite an uproar. Then in 1992 more female candidates won Congress seats than ever before. It became known as the “Year of the Woman”.
- © The Daily Telegraph