Political insiders: Don’t expect a major “Kavanaugh effect” in California midterms

If progressives can find a silver lining in the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh—and as they now contemplate a conservative majority on the country’s highest court for years, if not decades, to come, it’s a vanishingly thin one—it’s on the odd chance that this whole catastrophe will ultimately turnout out more enraged Democratic voters in the November election.

We put the question to politicos around California. Many thought the Democrats can expect to reap an electoral reward, but even more believed it won’t make much of a difference.

In the latest the California Target Book Insider Track Survey of campaign consultants, lobbyists and other legislative operatives, a slim majority of the 34 politicos surveyed predict no major “Kavanaugh effect” on either major party’s political fortunes.

A quarter of respondents said they expect the confirmation battle would have no effect, while another quarter says both Republicans and Democrats will see boosts in turnout, resulting in a wash.

Of the remaining respondents, 44 percent said Democrats would largely benefit from higher turnout. Only 5 percent said Republicans would reap the largest political return. (They were responding last week, after the hearings but before national polls of likely voters indicated an immediate “Brett bump” for Republicans that may or may not dissipate by the midterms.)

But even if the Democratic Party as a whole isn’t likely to see an effect one way or another, Sen. Dianne Feinstein likely came away from the hearings worse for wear, the survey respondents said.

As the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee and an early recipient of Palo Alto professor Christine Blasey Ford’s letter, Feinstein took political flak from the right and the left throughout the confirmation process. President Trump mocked her for being simultaneously conniving and feeble, while her opponent in the U.S. Senate race, state Sen. Kevin de León, said she should have made the letter public earlier. (Ford herself has said that she is satisfied with the way that Feinstein handled the situation).

Over half of respondents guessed that any California who watched the confirmation hearing will have come away with a negative impression of the sitting senator, with 41 percent saying she will lose appeal among Republican voters and 12 percent saying that voters will see her as “old and out of touch.” Another 38 percent said that she will leave a more positive impression: as a “strong, determined leader,” as someone who represents the Democratic base, or both.

Whatever impression she leaves, Feinstein likely remains the heavy favorite in her race against de León. A Public Policy Institute of California poll found Feinstein leading him among likely voters, 40-to-29 percent. But that survey was conducted before Kavanaugh was confirmed.

To learn more about Dianne Feinstein and Kevin de León explore the CALmatters voter guide.

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