GOP fights with new en­ergy af­ter at­tacks on nom­i­nee

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - WASHINGTON REPORT - By Steve Peo­ples

WASH­ING­TON — Po­lit­i­cal strate­gists in both par­ties sug­gest the Re­pub­li­can Party’s en­thu­si­as­tic em­brace of Brett Ka­vanaugh has shifted the po­lit­i­cal land­scape by in­ject­ing new en­ergy into the most pas­sion­ate GOP vot­ers a month be­fore the elec­tion.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ag­gres­sive de­fense of Ka­vanaugh has res­onated par­tic­u­larly with white work­ing-class men. For now, many men ap­par­ently agree with Trump’s warn­ing that the surge in women speak­ing out against sex­ual vi­o­lence in the #Me­Too era has cre­ated “a very scary time” for men in Amer­ica.

En­ergy is ev­ery­thing in midterm elec­tions, which typ­i­cally draw fewer el­i­gi­ble vot­ers to the polls. And through the first 21 months of the Trump era, Democrats have claimed an undis­puted en­thu­si­asm ad­van­tage.

Yet even a small ero­sion in the so­called en­thu­si­asm gap could make a big dif­fer­ence in the Demo­cratic Party’s high-stakes push to wrest con­trol of Congress from the GOP.

The ef­fect is most vis­i­ble in Re­pub­li­can-lean­ing states where vul­ner­a­ble Demo­cratic sen­a­tors are run­ning for re-elec­tion. Pub­lic and pri­vate polling in re­cent days has shifted in the GOP can­di­date’s fa­vor in West Vir­ginia, Mis­souri, In­di­ana and North Dakota.

“You can feel the en­ergy both for the pres­i­dent and for his nom­i­nee in Brett Ka­vanaugh,” Trump spokes­woman Sarah San­ders said. “Peo­ple are out­raged at the way that the Democrats have to­tally made this process into a par­ti­san bat­tle and they’ve cre­ated some­thing that should never have hap­pened.

“And I think the mes­sage is very clear: Dems, you made a mis­take here and it’s go­ing to show up in Novem­ber,” she said.

The Ka­vanaugh de­bate “is mak­ing the two groups of peo­ple who are al­ready mad at each other in Amer­ica even mad­der. To me, the ques­tion is, who is mad­dest?” said Gary Pearce, a vet­eran North Carolina Demo­cratic strate­gist.

Just as Trump ben­e­fited from op­po­si­tion to Hil­lary Clin­ton in his 2016 elec­tion, the GOP could ben­e­fit from op­po­si­tion to the Demo­cratic Party’s han­dling of Ka­vanaugh this midterm sea­son.

“This may be en­er­giz­ing the right — es­pe­cially peo­ple who don’t like Trump and may not have been mo­ti­vated to vote,” Pearce said. “This is the sub­sti­tute for Hil­lary.”

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