WASHINGTON — Republicans are forging ahead with plans for a Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, whether or not the woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault will testify.
- GOP leaders to press forward in hearing amid Kavanaugh accusations
- Strategist says GOP leaders will need to tread carefully in #MeToo era
- Allegations have energized Democrats who want to delay confirmation
How will this risky nationally televised showdown play out less than 50 days ahead of the midterm election at the height of the #MeToo movement?
“This is an extremely sensitive situation for both parties,” said Brian Walsh, a veteran Republican strategist in Washington DC.
With the fate of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee suddenly uncertain, both Democrats and Republicans are grappling with an increasingly messy nomination fight just weeks before the midterm elections.
All 11 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are men, and in the #MeToo Era, Walsh said they will need to tread carefully in an effort not to alienate women voters.
“They need to be careful about not being seen as attacking her personally. She has a story tell, she has a right to tell it,” Walsh said.
Even President Trump appears to recognize the stakes -- and has avoided commenting on the matter via Twitter.
"I think the message has been said to the President is, I think we really need to be careful here,” Walsh explained. “If Judge Kavanaugh for any reason, either recuses himself or steps down, I don’t believe he will, there is a very small window for Republicans to consider and vote on another nominee this year."
The President is still reiterating his support for Kavanaugh on Tuesday in public.
“He’s an incredible individual, great intellect, great judge, impeccable history in every way,” Trump said.
The new developments offer some breathing room for vulnerable Red State Democrats, who have avoided taking a firm position on the nomination. This is effectively keeping the national focus on Republicans like female Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), seen as potential swing votes.
“Given how quickly Senator Collins and Senator Murkowski called on then-Senator Franken to resign after the story came out about his sexual harassment, sexual assault, I think they’ll be under that much more scrutiny,” said Aaron Scherb with Common Cause.
The allegations are also energizing Democrats who see this as justification to delay the process.
“There are so many unanswered questions about Professor Ford and this sexual abuse from several decades ago. We believe that needs to come out,” Scherb said.