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Tamara Keith and Shawna Thomas on the Kavanaugh election effect

Tamara Keith of NPR and Shawna Thomas of VICE News join Judy Woodruff to discuss how Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court could affect voter enthusiasm in the midterm elections, plus the races that are up for grabs in swing districts.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now back to politics here at home and fallout from the months-long controversy over now Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation process with Tamara Keith of NPR and Shawna Thomas of ®MD-BO¯VICE News.

    Hello to both of you. It's Politics Monday.

    All right, Tam, it seems like the Brett Kavanaugh thing went on for months. In truth, it was only, what, a month or two. But what is the — can we tell right now what the political fallout from it may be?

  • Tamara Keith:

    I think it's hard to know right this second.

    What we do know is that, in the midst of it, "PBS NewsHour" and Marist had a poll. And over the course of a week, there was a dramatic shift among Republicans in terms of the energy that they had heading into the midterm elections.

    Now, does that energy and enthusiasm hold for the next couple of weeks? Unclear. The emotion of happiness is generally not as sticky or as strong as the emotion of rage and outrage.

    But one interesting thing that I saw developed, I traveled with the president this weekend to his rally in Kansas. And he very quickly turned this not to be a celebration of confirming Brett Kavanaugh, but going on the attack against Democrats for what they did in this process.

    He very quickly turned it into his base against the angry mob, as he called the Democrats.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Shawna, which suggests that he thinks that's the effective way to use this.

  • Shawna Thomas:

    Well, to show that he actually got a win out of this, and that if you give him more Republicans, he will continue to get wins.

    But I think this angry mob construction — I think Mitch McConnell used similar words on Saturday after the vote — is a troublesome one for the Republicans, because the women who were on the Hill — we saw these protests. There was rage. It was about Kavanaugh, but it was also about something bigger.

    It was about their bodies. It was about violation. It was about the ability to have some kind of power in this situation. And I think, if you dismiss that or belittle it or think it's going to go away, that is something, especially I think House — women running for the House will try to use.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So we may see a direct oppositional configuration, if you will, of this — this mob description that the president came up with.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

    President Trump on Air Force One was asked, what message do you have for the women that are devastated by this outcome, after Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault? And President Trump said, I don't think there are women who are devastated. I don't think that exists.

    Now, President Trump might be talking to different women than — than we are. And he is just dismissing it out of hand. That probably works just fine with his base. But, as I talked about before, in that poll, Republican enthusiasm jumped to get close to where Democratic enthusiasm and the enthusiasm of female voters, who have been riled up and angry and frustrated ever since 2016, and not just frustrated, but volunteering and donating and running for office.

  • Shawna Thomas:

    Exactly.

    And that running for office point, and the thing is, there are lots more women running for office this time. It's going to be a historic election. But a lot of those women are on the Democratic side.

    And people have looked at the numbers. There's just not as many Republican women who are running for the first time. If they are Democratic women, they had the energy — they have the energy, and you're going to give them the chance to have a vote that's against Kavanaugh, that is against Trump, and that is against this feeling that you are not taking them seriously, Democratic women who are running are going to take advantage of that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tam, you mentioned a poll. There's a — there is a poll that shows — and we talked about this last week to some extent, but that shows, yes, Democrats are still ahead in among — for many of these House races that are in play this year, but that the dynamics there are changing a little bit.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, and you're talking about The Washington Post poll…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Tamara Keith:

    … that is out today.

    And it's — in some ways, it's a battleground poll. It looks at the map of the districts that are competitive. And it says that there are a lot of very close races in this relatively large House map of districts that are competitive. Most of those tight races, close races are in districts that President Trump won.

    President Trump won those districts in many cases by a large margin. And the fact that they're close is giving Democrats reason to feel comfortable.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that — we have seen that coming, Shawna, haven't we? I mean, the House — these House races that are in play tend to be in places where Democrats feel more comfortable.

  • Shawna Thomas:

    Exactly.

    I mean, a lot of the ones that — that the DCCC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is targeting are House races where there is a Republican who is currently in the seat, but Hillary Clinton won that district in the 2016 election.

    So, that gives them a reason to believe that there are Democrats who are up for grabs who could come and vote, if they can convince them and get them out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Senate, on the other hand — and we have talked about this too, Tamara — is that — is such that a lot of these states that are in play, Republicans — they are red states. They are states where Donald Trump did very well.

    Democrats are worried about some of them.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right.

    So, whereas, on the House side, it's a map that is pretty good for Democrats, on the Senate side, it is a historically terrible map for Democrats heading into this. The fact that they even think that there is a marginal chance that they could come out ahead is a sign that this is a unique year.

    But you went to North Dakota and did some reporting there. That's a state where, if Democrats have any hope of taking back the Senate, they really need to hang on to North Dakota. And Heidi Heitkamp in public polling is significantly behind at the moment.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is showing she's behind.

    You were in West Virginia, Shawna.

  • Shawna Thomas:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Joe Manchin has had a tough race. It's a very, very Republican, pro-Trump state. What is it looking like?

  • Shawna Thomas:

    Well, it looks like — we did a focus group in West Virginia Friday night. It will air tomorrow night on "VICE News Tonight."

    And one of the things we saw were that some of these people who we considered sort of swing conservative Democrats, they seemed to like the fact that Joe Manchin was the lone Democrat who voted for Brett Kavanaugh. They thought it was him representing what they want. And these are people who voted for Trump, but also support Manchin.

    And it seemed — and this was an unscientific focus group — it was 12 people — but it seemed that if Manchin was trying to connect to the people who would vote for him, he probably did it pretty well. And the Democrats who were in the group aren't going to vote for the Republican.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, and it is a state-by-state thing.

  • Shawna Thomas:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You mentioned Heidi Heitkamp. And she voted against Judge Kavanaugh. And it's one of the things that factors in.

    But, for now, it's Politics Monday.

    Tamara Keith, Shawna Thomas, thank you both.

    And, as Tam mentioned, that report on my trip to North Dakota this weekend, we're going to have that tomorrow night, a look at the Heidi Heitkamp-Kevin Cramer race.

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