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Politics & Government

How Will The Kavanaugh Debate Impact The Battle For Control In Congress?


All right, Kavanaugh now sits on the Supreme Court, but the fight over his confirmation could reshape battle lines ahead of next month's midterm elections. Here with us now to talk about the political contest is Jennifer Duffy. She's a senior editor for The Cook Political Report. Welcome.

JENNIFER DUFFY: Hi. Thanks for having me.

CHANG: OK, I want to start with the Senate, where Democrats have a much less-favorable map than the one they have for the House. We saw a number of moderate Democrats up for re-election wrestle with a very tough decision on Kavanaugh. How do you think their votes will shift their individual races going forward now?

DUFFY: I think in most cases, the way that a lot of these moderate Democrats voted is going to make it harder for Democrats' efforts to take the majority. The one vote that probably helped Democrats was when Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted for Kavanaugh. That probably helped solidify his effort to get re-elected.

CHANG: But Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri - those are two more moderate Democrats who voted against Kavanaugh. You think that will hurt their chances come November.

DUFFY: Yes. I mean, I think especially Heitkamp in North Dakota was already probably trailing in her race. She is not getting a very good reception at home about her vote against Kavanaugh, so I think it makes it harder for her to get re-elected.

In Missouri, Claire McCaskill counts on some votes in rural areas to put her over the top. I think that this vote against Kavanaugh will cost her those rural votes.

CHANG: Let's turn to the House now, where Democrats would need to pick up 23 seats to control the chamber. Suburban women were already expected to play a very large role in determining those contests. But how do you think this fallout from Kavanaugh might amplify that?

DUFFY: I think a lot of the cake in the House is already baked. Republicans are helped somewhat by new enthusiasm in their base.

A lot of the data we've seen shows that Democrats will - they're committed to this midterm almost at record levels. So the question Democrats have is how much more growth do they have in that vote? What is their ceiling, or had they hit it already? So what they're more concerned about is how much this energizes the Republican vote.

CHANG: I mean, obviously, the Supreme Court confirmation is still raw in people's memories now. Kavanaugh was just seated on the court this weekend, more ceremonially today. Could we be overstating the influence of his confirmation this November because we're in this moment now? And other issues, like health care, for instance, could actually come to the forefront come November.

DUFFY: I do not think we are overstating the impact. I'm not sure a lot of Democrats appreciate the importance Republicans put on the Supreme Court. I mean, they view it as the last line of defense on a number of issues.

You know, Democrats are already so fired up. I think that this has truly angered and frightened a lot of women on many levels. So I think that women are as engaged as they were. I think that they are just a lot angrier about it.

CHANG: Jennifer Duffy is senior editor at The Cook Political Report. Thank you very much.

DUFFY: Thank you, Ailsa, for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.