Poll: Kavanaugh Hearing Galvanized Republicans, Erasing Dem Enthusiasm Edge

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 27: Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, focusing on allegations of sexual assault by Kavanaugh against Christine Blasey Ford in the early 1980s. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/Getty Images North America

The highly contentious fight over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing has helped galvanize Republican voters to erase a longstanding Democratic edge in voting enthusiasm, according to a new poll from Marist College for NPR and PBS News.

In the poll, 82 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans say the upcoming elections are “very important.” That negligible two-point difference in voter enthusiasm is down from a 10-point edge Democrats held when Marist polled that question in July, and much lower than other polling from earlier this fall showed.

Democrats’ lead on the generic congressional ballot also dipped from 12 points in September to 6 points now — slightly below what they’ll need to feel confident in winning the House this fall.

The poll does find that a solid plurality of voters believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford over Kavanaugh that he sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers, however.

This is just one poll. But it’s not the only public survey in recent days that’s shown a shift towards Republicans since Ford came forward with her accusations. Democrats privately have told TPM in recent days that they saw an uptick in GOP interest and intensity in the days leading up to the Kavanaugh hearings and a tightening in polls in states where their candidates had held wider leads, though some say they’ve seen some evidence that the hearings themselves helped their side some.

And this issue is a fast-moving target: It’s unclear whether Kavanaugh will be on the Supreme Court come Election Cay or whether he’ll be rejected before then. Both outcomes could fuel major fury from the party bases and dramatically change how this affects the midterm elections.

It’s also not clear whether the Kavanaugh fight is the only thing driving this, or whether the closeness of the election has just encouraged more Republicans to tune in while Democrats have been locked in all cycle due to their fury over President Trump.

But after a spate of good polling through most of September, these numbers have to worry Democrats who until now had felt confident about winning the House and increasingly hopeful about their slim chances at Senate control — especially since most of their key races are in GOP-leaning territory where an uptick in Republican enthusiasm could make a big difference.

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