According to new polling data, the Democrats’ scorched-earth strategy for delaying the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh not only failed to keep the textualist judge out of the Supreme Court, it appears to have destroyed their chances to gain the coveted 51-seat majority in the Senate.
Just a month ago, Real Clear Politics’ average of the key polls for all of the Senate seats up for election in 2018 listed 9 seats as “toss-ups” that could go either way. At that point, RCP gave Democrats 44 seats that were either safe or not up and Republicans 47 seats. Many of the nine toss-up seats were leaning Democrat.
But the electoral landscape has since changed significantly in the Republicans’ favor. After ceding two of the toss-ups to Republicans since the Kavanaugh circus a few weeks ago, RCP has now given the GOP one more. In other words, RCP now lists 50 seats as relative locks for Republicans. Vice President Mike Pence gives Republicans the tie-breaking vote.
The most recent seat to move from “toss up” to safely Republican is Tennessee, where after Democrat Phil Bredesen announced that he would’ve voted to confirm Kavanaugh, angering many of his base, Republican Marsha Blackburn has taken a commanding lead.
A New York Times/Siena poll (conducted October 8-11) found Blackburn with a stunning 14-point lead over Bredesen. Prior to the Democrats pushing uncorroborated allegations against Kavanaugh, Bredesen led Blackburn by 5+ points. A CBS News/YouGov poll taken last week showed Blackburn with an 8-point lead and a Fox News poll conducted a few days earlier gave her a 5-point lead.
The other two formerly toss-up seats that have gone red are in North Dakota and Texas. North Dakota Republican Kevin Cramer now leads Democrat Heidi Heitkamp (who recently said she decided to vote against Kavanaugh after watching his testimony with the sound off) by 12 points, according to a recent Fox News poll. An NBC News poll conducted at the end of September found Heitkamp trailing by 10 points.
After polls had tightened last month, Texas Republican Ted Cruz now has an 8-point and 9-point lead over Democrat Beto O’Rourke in recent polls by NYT/Siena and Quinnipiac, respectively.
The six remaining toss-up seats are Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana and Nevada, all of which are very tight and some of which have been trending towards the Republicans. If Republicans win a single one of those seats and the “safe” seats indeed go red, the GOP will maintain its current 51-seat majority. If Republicans gain two or more, they will have strengthened their control over the Senate.