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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. – who hasn’t been shy about his disgust with how Democrats have treated Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh – believes Trump’s pick will be confirmed Friday, but he has back-up plan if Republicans fall one vote shy.
In that case, Graham would advise Trump to renominate Kavanaugh and allow the upcoming midterm elections to act as a referendum, particularly in states Trump won in 2016.
“This way the American people will have the last say,” he told the Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity Monday night.
“I’d ask voters in Indiana and Missouri and North Dakota and other places where Trump won saying who he would nominate if he got to be president and see if voters want to appeal the verdict of their senator.”
On the White House lawn Tuesday, as he waited to board Marine One on his way to Philadelphia, Trump was asked about Graham’s strategy.
“Well, I heard Lindsey say that. And certainly it’s interesting. People love him,” the president said.
Trump immediately pointed to his rally Monday night in Johnson City, Tennessee, “with a sold-out arena with thousands of people outside,” affirming there is strong support for Kavanaugh among America’s grass roots.
“Everywhere I go – I’m going to Pennsylvania, it’s the same thing – they are so in favor of Judge Kavanaugh,” he said.
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“I actually think it’s like a rallying cry for the Republicans. They are so in favor of Judge Kavanaugh.”
Democratic candidates in trouble
A new Quinnipiac poll on the generic ballot, in fact, finds Democrats falling from a 14 point lead to only 7 points in the wake of Christine Blasey Ford’s still-uncorroborated accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago when both were in high school.
Significantly, a Democratic senator poised to vote on Kavanaugh is down 10 points to her Republican challenger following the Ford accusations. The Mason-Dixon poll showing Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer ahead by 51 percent to 41 percent against incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., also indicates North Dakotans support Kavanaugh’s nomination by an overwhelming margin.
The poll found 60 percent want Kavanaugh to be confirmed and only 27 percent oppose him.
In Missouri, Republican Josh Hawley recently has surged in the polls and now is in a virtual tie with Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who has declared she will vote against Kavanaugh.
A Harvard-Harris poll has Democrats up 9 in the generic ballot after Thursday’s hearing in which both Kavanaugh and Ford testified. It showed voters, by a 44-37 margin, want their senators to vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
However, the poll also asked whether Kavanaugh should be confirmed if his accusers can’t provide “any evidence to corroborate the claims and Kavanaugh says these incidents did not happen.”
In that case, 57 percent want Kavanaugh to be confirmed and 43 percent reject him. Further, if the FBI, which will submit a report of its investigation to senators before they vote, doesn’t find anything specific about Ford’s allegations, 60 percent want Kavanaugh confirmed, including 55 percent of women.
In the interview Monday night, Graham said that giving up on Kavanaugh would be “legitimizing the worst tactics I’ve seen.”
“I think we’re going to get 50 plus,” he said. “But if we fell one vote short, for the good of the nation I would appeal this to the people of the country and let them have a say.”
Flake: Kavanaugh ‘sharp and partisan’
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-10 on party lines Friday to report the nomination to the full Senate, but Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona threw a wrench in the GOP leadership’s voting schedule by insisting on a one-week delay while the FBI probes Ford’s claims.
Flake was backed by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
The Atlantic reported Flake, speaking at The Atlantic Festival on Tuesday morning, seemed to indicate he had grounds to vote against Kavanaugh.
Flake called Kavanaugh’s interactions with Democratic senators during the hearing after passionately rebutting Ford’s claims “sharp and partisan.”
Flake said he gives Kavanaugh “a little leeway because of what he’s been through, but, on the other hand, we can’t have this on the court.”
Atlantic reporter Elaina Plott said she caught up with Flake briefly as he left the event and asked if his comment meant he would not vote to confirm Kavanaugh, even if the FBI cleared him.
Plott wrote that Flake “appeared rattled, and his handlers rushed him into the stairwell.”
“I didn’t say that,” the senator stammered. “I wasn’t referring to him.”