Kavanaugh battle fires up voters ahead of Nov 6 midterm elections

US President Donald Trump at a rally in Iowa on Oct 9, 2018. He told attendees that what Democrats did to Justice Brett Kavanaugh was "a national embarrassment and national disgrace". PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump, feeding off a raucous crowd on Tuesday night (Oct 9) at a packed 9,000-seat arena in the solidly favourable territory of Council Bluffs, in Iowa, came out wielding the Justice Brett Kavanaugh episode like a weapon.

"What the Democrats did to Brett and his beautiful family is a national embarrassment and national disgrace," he rasped, as every other sentence was interrupted with loud applause.

"In just four weeks you will have the chance to render your verdict on the Democrats' outrageous conduct," he said, urging people repeatedly to get out and vote, or mail their ballots in early.

But the sentiment in that arena is not shared by all, judging by an MSNBC poll which showed that 50 per cent of Americans disapproved of Justice Kavanaugh.

In fact, the judge's contentious confirmation process - in which he was accused of an alleged sexual assault 36 years ago but nonetheless confirmed along partisan lines - has been weaponised by both sides.

And while Republicans have by all accounts been energised by the nasty battle over the judge, Democrats may be even angrier.

Early voting for the Nov 6 midterm elections has already begun in some states. The volume of early voting as well as the turnout on Nov 6 will largely determine the results, pundits say. The Democratic Party appears to have an advantage for now.

A CNN poll, released on Tuesday, found that 40 per cent of registered Democrats were "extremely enthusiastic" about voting in November, up from 33 per cent a month ago. The figure for registered Republicans was roughly stable at 29 per cent, down from 30 per cent in September.

The Democratic Party has a close to 78 per cent chance of seizing control of the House of Representatives, where it needs to flip 23 seats to win a majority, the Five Thirty Eight election forecasting website said this week. But the Republican Party had an 80 per cent chance of retaining its majority in the Senate.

Apart from using the Kavanaugh controversy to rile up his base, the President is basking in good economic numbers. Last Friday, jobs data showed unemployment had dipped to 3.7 per cent - the lowest in 49 years.

Also last week, the US sealed what the Trump administration called a new and improved trade deal with Canada and Mexico; the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) is now replaced with the USMCA or the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Mr Trump hopes the buoyant economy and anger with the "radical left", which he maintains has "taken over" the Democratic Party, will carry the day on Nov 6.

But four weeks is a long time in politics, and even longer in the United States' feverishly partisan landscape.

"If the elections were held this weekend then it might have been equal for both sides, but the winners will not remain as fired up as the losers," says Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia, referring to the Kavanaugh battle. "It just solidifies their belief that something has to be done."

And there is one wild card - the unpredictable President himself.

"You just never know what this President might do," Dr Bullock said.

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