The Note: Winners could be losers in politics around Kavanaugh

October 05, 2018, 5:55 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Republicans can unite even when the president divides. Democrats can divide even when the president would seem to be uniting them.

The biggest upshot of the Brett Kavanaugh saga is that winners may be losers and losers winners.

The head-spinning three weeks since Christine Blasey Ford came forward with her allegation appear to be winding toward a conclusion. A Senate cloture vote is on track for Friday, with a final confirmation vote possible by Saturday night.

Whatever the outcome, both Democrats and Republicans may be relieved to move on and resume their regularly scheduled messaging.

Consider one point that they agree on: Anger is the coin of the political realm in 2018. Whoever comes up short in the fight over Kavanaugh will have a wealth of it to build around.

The RUNDOWN with John Verhovek

After a week of uncertainty over the roller-coaster Kavanaugh nomination, it seems we’re right back where we started, plus a whole lot more anger across an already divided nation and key questions lingering almost a month out from the midterm election.

The political consequences of the bitterly partisan process seem to be falling unequally across a chaotic midterm landscape in which control of the House and Senate is at stake.

What’s true of the political dynamic in Southern California, where Democrats have a real chance to flip five GOP-held congressional seats, is not true in states like Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Montana, where the razor-thin Republican majority in the U.S. Senate has a chance to expand.

Republicans in those key Senate battlegrounds might be able to use the nomination battle to rile up a GOP base some party leaders worry is lethargic in the face of a blue wave, but Democrats in districts Hillary Clinton won by double digits can cast the controversy as the GOP embracing scorched earth, Trump-era politics.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump walks to the stage at a campaign rally, Oct. 4, 2018 at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minn.
President Donald Trump walks to the stage at a campaign rally, Oct. 4, 2018 at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minn.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The TIP with Adam Kelsey

Heidi Heitkamp's argument is simple: She voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch, so how can she be a partisan stooge? But that didn't stop the RNC from immediately accusing her Thursday of deciding that "Schumer knows best."

A flashback from 13 months ago: President Trump calls her to the stage at a North Dakota event and describes Heitkamp — who was considered for a Trump Cabinet role early on — as "a good woman."

Heitkamp's indecision in the Kavanaugh standoff had attracted unwanted attention; ABC News partner 538 updated its forecast for her re-election race earlier this week to "Lean Republican." But if her decision to oppose Kavanaugh was a political calculation, it might be a gesture to North Dakota Republicans.

The senator is banking on those who crossed party lines for her in the past to think critically about her votes, trust in her independent streak, and perhaps recall how her opponent Kevin Cramer responded to the allegations against the judge (he questioned whether the accusations, even if they proved true, should "disqualify" Kavanaugh). At the same time, she still gets to cast a "no" on confirmation that prevents state Democrats from losing faith.

On the flip side, a "yes" vote might have reeked of desperation and turned off the same open-minded voters who admired her Capitol Hill autonomy.

PHOTO: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp speaks with reporters ahead of the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 24, 2018.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp speaks with reporters ahead of the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill, July 24, 2018.
Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Friday morning’s episode features a conversation with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). He tells us why he thinks the Kavanaugh FBI investigation is incomplete, while former FBI agent and ABC News contributor Brad Garrett give us his take. And, ABC News Senior Congressional correspondent Mary Bruce brings us the latest on the undecided senators.


  • President Trump participates in a Defense Industrial Base Report Presentation in the Oval office at 1:45 p.m. He then participates in a signing ceremony for H.R. 4, the “FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018” behind closed doors at 2:45 p.m.
  • Tune in Friday, Oct. 12 at 10 p.m. ET for a one hour primetime special ‘Being Melania - The First Lady’ on ABC
  • Friday is the first day of the New Yorker Festival. Ronan Farrow, who broke the New Yorker story on Kavanaugh accuser Deborah Ramirez with Jane Mayer, speaks at 10 p.m. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, also speaks at 10 p.m.
  • Candidates in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District face off in their first debate Friday night at 6 p.m. EDT when Republican Rep. Rod Blum goes up against Democratic challenger state Rep. Abby Finkenauer. The district, which voted for Barack Obama before flipping to Trump in 2016, is a key target for Democrats.
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