Brett bounce? Confirmation battle may have huge effect on midterm voting
Even before Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed, stories emerged about how Republican voter enthusiasm had spiked in outrage over the treatment of the supreme court nominee.
The “Brett bounce”, as political news website Axios christened it, anticipating a potential windfall point or two for Republicans in November’s midterm elections. Slate noticed that Republican women in particular seemed to be invigorated by Kavanaugh’s tribulations at the hands of Senate Democrats. McClatchy spoke with three Republican pollsters: all reported soaring enthusiasm among GOP respondents after months of apathy and malaise.
For progressives, the news set off every alarm. Anger that Dr Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault had been slighted. Distress that anyone could react to her testimony – and to the petulance of Kavanaugh’s response – that way. Anxiety that the midterms could be squandered. Panic about a classic Democratic own-goal. Anger again at the effort to silence and punish Ford.
A week earlier, Kavanaugh had been dragged, metaphorically kicking and literally screaming, through hours of questions about the Ford allegations and other alleged conduct. In the immediate aftermath, most, including Donald Trump, declared Ford to be credible.
But Kavanaugh called it “a calculated and orchestrated political hit”, fuelled by a desire for “revenge on behalf of the Clintons
The midterms are still a month away. That is a long time
and millions of dollars in money from outside leftwing opposition groups”.
It was the same language of grievance and victimhood – at the hands of China, or immigrants, or trade agreements, or Barack Obama, or the rigged system, or indeed the Clintons – that Trump used so fluently to harness a wave of political support in 2016. And,
apparently, core Republican voters still responded to it. A NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released last Wednesday showed them up to about even with the Democrats.
“The result of the [Kavanaugh] hearings, at least in the short run, is the Republican base was awakened,” said Marist director Lee Miringoff.
But is the Brett bounce real – or does it look more like a bubble?
It is important to note that the midterms are still a month away. In politics, that’s a very long time.
FiveThirtyEight founder and analyst Nate Silver wrote that there appeared to be a signal in the polling noise, but it was kind of weak.
“There is truth in the idea that Republicans have had a decent week of polling, but it can also be exaggerated by cherry-picking data that’s consistent with a particular narrative,” he wrote.
In short, Silver said that during the hearings Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp’s re-election bid looked to have suffered in North Dakota, where Kavanaugh is popular. That could diminish the Democratic chances of taking the Senate from the 25% baseline to somewhere closer to one in five.
In House races, Silver wrote, Republicans appeared to be doing better than a week ago but worse than a month ago. “District-level polls have generally been getting worse for Republicans, even if national indicators have stabilised or improved slightly,” he said.
With both Republican senator Susan Collins and Democratic senator Joe Manchin announcing that they intended to vote for Kavanaugh, that aggrieved party looks unlikely to be the Republicans. Shortly after the double announcement, veteran GOP strategist John Weaver tweeted: “Folks, coming to an election near you: a giant blue wave.”
Maybe. Many Democrats feel the stakes in the Kavanaugh confirmation fight were higher than the stakes in the midterms. The confirmation of Kavanaugh could potentially have more important implications for longer.
The political calculus, in other words, is complicated and opaque. Kavanaugh is a supreme court justice. The election is on 6 November.
Mr Justice Kavanaugh takes the oath of office