Jennifer Rubin: Support for Republicans and Kavanaugh crumbles

Published 10:54 pm Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Post-ABC News poll has more dreadful results for Republicans. Democrats’ lead in the generic polling is 14 points (52 percent to 38 percent). (A new USA Today/Suffolk poll puts Democrats’ margin at 11 points.) The Republican Party as a whole gets poor marks for “being in touch with most people’s concerns” (31 percent say in touch, 63 percent say not), including 69 percent of independents. Democrats’ numbers aren’t great, but are substantially better than Republicans’ – 40 percent say in touch, 51 percent say not. As for President Donald Trump, specifically, 63 percent say he’s out of touch. Among independents, 67 percent say he’s out of touch. Even Trump’s two groups of core voters think he’s out of touch – white non-college-educated (50/47) and rural voters (53/44).

(Interestingly, 72 percent of respondents say that if Democrats win the majority, they will try to impeach Trump. Democratic lawmakers insist that they haven’t made up their minds.)

Trump and the Republicans aren’t doing a very good job scaring Americans about illegal immigration. Trump is too harsh on illegal immigrants, according to 56 percent, 11 percent say not tough enough and 31 percent about right. If Democrats are elected, a narrow plurality (47 percent) say they’ll be tough enough, while 43 percent say not tough enough.

The most consequential part of the data might be the response to the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Only 38 percent think the Senate should confirm; 39 percent do not. (Among independents, 35 percent say confirm, 37 percent say don’t confirm.) Only 29 percent of women want him confirmed. College-educated whites are narrowly divided (41 percent for, 42 percent against). Regionally, Kavanaugh’s confirmation gets strong thumbs down in the Northeast (33/43 percent) and the West (33/46) – which should be of note to the GOP pro-choice senator from Maine (Susan Collins) and from Alaska (Lisa Murkowski).

No Supreme Court nominee has received such an awful response since Harriet Miers and Robert Bork, whose nominations both failed. Americans want Kavanaugh to let them know where he stands on abortion (59 percent to 31 percent). Twenty-one percent want the Supreme Court to make abortions easier to get, 45 percent want to keep the status quo, and 30 percent want to make it harder. Among independents, 49 percent want the status quo, 23 percent want it to be easier, and 25 percent say harder.

What do the rotten poll numbers for Kavanaugh mean in practice? For one thing, red-state Democrats will be less hesitant to vote against his confirmation, while possibly persuadable pro-choice senators might have second and third thoughts about confirming him – or at least slowing down the runaway train until more of his documents are released or he gives a definitive answer on abortion.

Moreover, given the public’s strong support for Kavanaugh to reveal his views on abortion, Democrats might very well want to stress that Kavanaugh’s phraseology that Roe v. Wade is “settled” law is meaningless and that since he was chosen by people who had every reason to believe he will reverse Roe, the American people should be let in on the secret as well.

Finally, Americans are becoming increasingly convinced that the Russia investigation is warranted. (The Post-ABC News poll put approval for the probe at 63 percent.) If Kavanaugh refuses to give assurances that he won’t swoop in to rescue Trump from a subpoena, an indictment or other action by the special counsel, voters might become even less favorably disposed to him. Kavanaugh would be smart to take this issue off the table entirely by promising to recuse himself from Russia probe-related matters – unless of course he was picked precisely because he’s going to give Trump every opportunity to disable the investigation and/or continue down the road of obstructing justice.

Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion from a center-right perspective for The Washington Post.