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Wake Up To Politics - October 8, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, October 8, 2018. 29 days until Election Day 2018. 757 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Weekend Review: Kavanaugh confirmed

Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court on Saturday after a bitter, drawn-out confirmation battle. Hours later, he was sworn in as the 114th Supreme Court justice, marking a major victory for President Donald Trump and conservatives in their sweeping transformation of the federal judiciary.

Kavanaugh was confirmed in a 50-48 vote, the closest margin for a Supreme Court confirmation since 1881. Of the four senators who had been undecided before reviewing an FBI report on sexual misconduct allegations made against him by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez, three ended up supporting the nominee: Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Joe Manchin (D-WV). Manchin, who is fighting for re-election in a deep-red state, was the only Democrat to support Kavanaugh.

Collins made her announcement on Friday afternoon, in a 45-minute speech knocking down the allegations of sexual assault leveled against Kavanaugh. The fourth undecided vote, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), ended up opposing Kavanaugh (the only GOP senator to do so), although she voted "present" on Saturday to "pair" her vote with Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), who was attending his daughter's wedding.

Kavanaugh's elevation as a justice — which was made official later Saturday when he was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts and retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote he replaced, in a private ceremony — cements a conservative majority on the Supreme Court that is likely to rule on hot-button issues from abortion to gun control to voting rights. In Kennedy's absence, the court will lack a swing vote, pitting a solid conservative faction of five justices (fueled by the additions of Trump-appointed Neil Gorsuch, 51, and Kavanaugh, 53) against an aging liberal quartet (including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, and Stephen Breyer, 80).

Some Democrats have already begun discussing ways to reverse conservatives' newfound dominance on the court, including by impeaching Kavanaugh if they retake the House in November or by expanding the number of justices if they find themselves in simultaneous control of the Senate and White House. Kavanaugh's divisive confirmation process will likely leave a permanent stain of partisanship on the Supreme Court, once seen as a bastion of neutrality.

The aftershock of the Kavanaugh vote is also expected to play out at the ballot box this November, as both parties hope it boosts them to electoral success. Buoyed by recent boosts in fundraising and polling, Republicans say that the confirmation will energize their voters and supercharge their enthusiasm. Democrats, meanwhile, think the loss will help them politically, especially among women who view his confirmation after being accused of sexual misconduct as a sign that they were ignored by the GOP leadership. If Kavanaugh's confirmation was a test of #MeToo at the congressional level, it now gives way for the movement to be tested on Election Day.

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Midterms Central: State of play

"Survey of battleground House districts shows Democrats with narrow edge" (Washington Post): "Likely voters who live in 69 battleground House districts across the country narrowly prefer Democratic candidates, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School survey, a potentially worrying sign for Republicans given that the overwhelming percentage of these districts are currently in GOP hands."

..."Women are driving Democratic support in the battleground districts, favoring the party’s candidates by 54 percent to 40 percent. Men in these districts favor Republicans by 51 percent to 46 percent. That gender difference continues a pattern that has been seen throughout the year in other polls and in special elections."

"Battle for the House Has a Wide Range of Possible Outcomes" (New York Times): "The size of the Democratic advantage in the fight for control of the House is unclear with a month until the midterm elections, and there are recent signs Republicans might have improved their position, possibly because of the fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court."

"A favorable national environment, strong Democratic candidates and a wave of Republican retirements have combined to produce a long list of vulnerable Republican seats. But Republicans remain competitive in the districts that will decide control."

"The sheer number of highly competitive districts means a wide range of possible outcomes. Democrats could win in a landslide, or Republicans could run the table and narrowly retain a majority. Both possibilities are evident in data collected from The New York Times Upshot/Siena College surveys in battleground districts."

White House schedule

POTUS: At 1:35pm, President Trump delivers remarks at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Convention. After returning to Washington, Trump will participate in the ceremonial swearing-in of Justice Brett Kavanaugh at the White House at 7pm.

VP: Vice President Mike Pence campaigns for Republican candidates in Texas and Missouri today. At 12:50pm, he delivers remarks at an event for Texas Rep. Pete Sessions' re-election campaign in Dallas. At 2:15pm, he participates in an event for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's re-election campaign in Dallas. At 5:55pm, he speaks at an event for state Attorney General Josh Hawley's Missouri Senate campaign in Springfield.

Congress schedule

Neither house of Congress is in session today.

*All times Eastern