Politics

Group Blasts Red State Dems with Pro-Kavanaugh Ads

Judicial Crisis Network releases poll showing SCOTUS pick has support that could be crucial in key Senate races

Image Credit: NGAN / AFP / Getty

A conservative organization expected to spend millions of dollars supporting Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s bid for the Supreme Court announced a major ad blitz Monday in four Republican-leaning states with Democratic senators.

The Judicial Crisis Network indicated it will spend $1.5 million to air ads in Alabama, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Indiana. And it released a poll it commissioned showing the voters in all four states favor Kavanaugh’s confirmation. (Kavanaugh is pictured in foreground above).

Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Joe Manchin all face re-election in November in states that President Donald Trump carried by hefty margins. All three also voted to confirm Trump’s first Supreme Court justice. Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, who was not in the Senate for the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch, is not up for re-election until 2020.

All four senators face competing pressures. On the one hand, the Democratic leadership in the Senate and liberal interest groups have made opposition to Kavanaugh the equivalent of the Battle of Iwo Jima. On the other hand, many constituents back home expect their Democratic senators to act in a bipartisan manner.

Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, told LifeZette that she believes wavering Democrats will be susceptible to the desires of their voters.

“That’s why our constitutional system provides for senators to offer their advice and consent,” she said. “It’s an additional layer of democratic accountability. So, if they are going to ignore their constituents, that undermines that principle.”

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Kavanaugh currently serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Senate Republican leaders hope to confirm him by the time the next sessions of the high court begin in October.

The survey, commissioned by the Judicial Crisis Network and conducted by North Star Opinion Research, found that support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation ranged from a low of 52 percent in Indiana to a high of 60 percent in North Dakota. That includes a majority of independents in all but Indiana, where independents favored confirmation by a plurality of 48 percent to 34 percent.

What’s more, voters in all four states said Trump made a good decision last year in nominating Gorsuch. Respondents gave the Supreme Court a positive job approval rating as well. The margin was better than two to one in all four states. That tracks with a Gallup poll last week indicating that Americans give the current court the highest approval rating since 2009.

“It’s very lopsided, particularly among independents,” Severino said.

“Tell Joe Manchin you won’t be fooled by his tricks, and you won’t forget how he votes on Kavanaugh.”

The ads — some of which began airing Monday while others start Tuesday — will run online and on broadcast TV. The messages vary slightly from state to state but strike a similar tone. The ad running in West Virginia, for instance, praises Kavanaugh’s record of fairness and judicial philosophy and then declares that Manchin “isn’t being straight with West Virginians,” citing a recent statement by the senator that he is concerned about protecting people’s right to insurance regardless of pre-existing health conditions.

“Saying his vote on Kavanaugh is about health care — a dishonest talking point he got from liberal [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer,” an announcer intones. “Tell Joe Manchin you won’t be fooled by his tricks, and you won’t forget how he votes on Kavanaugh.”

Related: Supreme Court Reaches Highest Approval Rating Since 2009

The GOP’s margin for error is even narrower than it was for the Gorsuch nomination, when they had 52 seats. Since Alabama’s Jones won a special election in December, the party is down to 51 votes. And the deteriorating health of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) may prevent him from voting.

That gives every Republican an outsized platform in voicing concerns about the nominee. In recent days, for instance, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), has expressed unease over Kavanaugh’s views on the Fourth Amendment.

Severino said that if all 51 Republican senators come out in favor of Kavanaugh, it will make it easier for red state Democrats like Manchin to break ranks.

“If it seems like confirmation is assured, it’s more likely for Schumer to give Manchin a pass,” she said.

This is the fourth round of ads the Judicial Crisis Network has run since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced he would retire. The group spent $1 million on ads on June 27 — before Trump even had selected Kavanaugh — and followed it up with a $1.4 million campaign beginning July 9. Beginning on July 16, the organization dumped another $1.4 million into the effort.

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