GOP cuts into Dems’ en­thu­si­asm

Ka­vanaugh fight helps en­er­gize base ahead of midterms

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Steve Peo­ples

NEW YORK — On the brink of a po­lit­i­cal gen­der war, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s Repub­li­can Party is threat­en­ing to erode Democrats’ en­thu­si­asm ad­van­tage thanks to the fiery de­bate over his Supreme Court pick.

Po­lit­i­cal strate­gists in both par­ties sug­gest the GOP’s en­thu­si­as­tic em­brace of Brett Ka­vanaugh de­spite mul­ti­ple al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct may have shifted the po­lit­i­cal land­scape — at least tem­po­rar­ily — by in­ject­ing new en­ergy into the most pas­sion­ate Repub­li­can vot­ers a month be­fore the Nov. 6 midterm elec­tions.

Trump’s ag­gres­sive de­fense of Ka­vanaugh has res­onated par­tic­u­larly with white work­ing-class men, who are a shrink­ing vot­ing bloc na­tion­ally but re­main a cru­cial seg­ment of Trump’s po­lit­i­cal base.

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.

“Democrats have been try­ing to de­stroy Judge Brett Ka­vanaugh since the very first sec­ond he was an­nounced,” Trump de­clared as he ral­lied vot­ers Thurs­day night in Rochester, Minn.

He added: “What they’re putting him through and his fam­ily is in­cred­i­ble.”

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 — as ev­i­denced by a slate of spe­cial elec­tion vic­to­ries and fundrais­ing suc­cesses.

Yet even a small ero­sion in the so-called 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 In­di­ana, Mis­souri, North Dakota and West Vir­ginia.

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.”

The Supreme Court clash has al­ready at­tracted a surge of new cam­paign cash for both par­ties.

The Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee and its as­so­ci­ated groups raised more than $3 mil­lion in dig­i­tal do­na­tions last week­end, the most it’s ever raised on­line, ac­cord­ing to GOP spokes­woman Cassie Smedile. And last Sun­day was the GOP’s high­est sin­gle-day on­line fundrais­ing haul.

The GOP says the fundrais­ing surge is fu­eled by anger over how al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct against Ka­vanaugh have played out.

On the other side, the on­line Demo­cratic fundrais­ing por­tal Ac­tBlue pulled in $25 mil­lion in just two days, while Emily’s List, a group that aims to elect more Demo­cratic women, also set a record for on­line fundrais­ing.

The GOP’s sup­port of Ka­vanaugh puts the party at odds with the ris­ing #MeToo move­ment that has em­pow­ered women across Amer­ica to share their sto­ries of sex­ual vi­o­lence. The move­ment has trig­gered the down­fall of pow­er­ful men in me­dia, sports and pol­i­tics — Repub­li­cans and Democrats alike.

“It’s a very scary time for young men,” Trump said last week. A day later, he mocked Ka­vanaugh’s ac­cuser’s me­mory of the al­leged sex­ual as­sault.

Many women, backed by lib­eral men, have been out­raged by Trump’s com­ments.

“The idea that it’s a ter­ri­ble time to be a young, white guy is com­pletely ab­surd,” said Flor­ida-based Demo­cratic strate­gist Steve Schale.

He noted, how­ever, there is “some ev­i­dence that the Ka­vanaugh stuff is gal­va­niz­ing Repub­li­cans, par­tic­u­larly Repub­li­can men.”

“It’s com­ing at a price,” Schale added. “We’re see­ing Repub­li­can women throw their hands up.”

In­deed, while Trump of­ten states, falsely, that he won the women’s vote in 2016, Democrats have en­joyed an ad­van­tage with women for most of the last three decades.

Po­lit­i­cal strate­gist Matthew Dowd, a for­mer Repub­li­can who has crit­i­cized Trump, said it’s un­clear whether GOP en­ergy be­hind Ka­vanaugh rep­re­sents “some men on so­cial me­dia” or a “move­ment.”

“I’ve al­ways been a be­liever that the most mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor in these elec­tions is who is the an­gri­est,” Dowd said. “Who­ever loses is go­ing to be the an­gri­est.”

While Ka­vanaugh may be help­ing Repub­li­can can­di­dates in deep-red states, a Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity poll re­leased re­cently shows that op­po­si­tion to Ka­vanaugh na­tion­ally is ac­tu­ally grow­ing, as is the gen­der gap.

Women op­posed the con­fir­ma­tion, 55 per­cent to 37 per­cent, while men sup­port it 49 per­cent to 40 per­cent, Quin­nip­iac found.

HAN­NAH FOSLIEN/GETTY

The pres­i­dent’s de­fense of Brett Ka­vanaugh puts the GOP at odds with the #MeToo move­ment ahead of Nov. 6 elec­tions.

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