President Donald Trump used a fiery speech in Minnesota on Thursday to accuse Democrats of “trying to destroy” Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
It was the eve of a dramatic showdown in the Senate over Kavanaugh, and the president revved up the raucous crowd, telling them Democrats would pay a price in the Nov. 6 elections for what he said was an effort to derail the court nomination over sexual assault allegations.
“Their rage-fueled resistance is starting to backfire,” Trump said as supporters chanted Kavanaugh’s name. “These people are loco.”
The comments underscored Trump’s belief that the fight to put Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court will be a potent issue for the midterms and one that could rile up the Republican base in a year when Democratic voters are seen as more motivated to go to the polls.
On Saturday, the Republican-led Senate confirmed Kavanaugh after a bruising battle.
With the midterm elections a month away, turnout will be decisive in whether Democrats can wrest one or both chambers from Republican control. In the Kavanaugh battle, Republican operatives say the president saw an opportunity to turn a liability around.
Trump himself went a step further, telling reporters Saturday that a speech he gave in Mississippi mocking Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford had helped pave the way for the confirmation.
“I think that the Mississippi speech had a great impact, yes – I think it was a very important thing,” Trump told reporters.
After Kavanaugh’s confirmation Saturday, Trump on Fox News called for penalizing those who leveled “false” allegations against the judge.
When Ford first went public with her allegations against Kavanaugh, White House aides urged a cautious approach, advising the president to tread carefully around a controversy that could sour suburban women and independent voters.
Kavanaugh has adamantly denied the allegations.
While standing by his nominee, Trump initially refrained from criticizing Ford and said he found her Senate testimony about the allegations compelling.
But the president later changed tack, mocking Ford in the Mississippi speech last Tuesday and telling his supporters that it’s a “damn sad situation” when men like Kavanaugh can have their lives turned upside down by assault allegations.
Republican operatives said that message could help drive turnout among conservative voters.
‘Springs wound tight’
“The springs are all wound pretty tight right now,” said J.C. Martin, chairman of the Republican Party in Polk County, Florida.
“People aren’t going to calm down after this.”
But the strategy carries a big risk, analysts say. It could further drive a wedge between suburban women voters – a key demographic – and the Republican Party. And Democrats say their core supporters are already energized.
“The confirmation process – especially Trump’s mockery of Dr. Ford – only exacerbated the movement away from Trump among key demographics,” said Democratic consultant Ian Russell.
Those key voters, he said, “aren’t going to forget or move on.”
Republicans have cheered early polling and fundraising numbers indicating that the Kavanaugh controversy helped close an enthusiasm gap between the parties. A 10-point split in July between the number of Democrats and Republicans who described the election as “very important” all but disappeared, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll this week.
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Source: USA Today