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Commentary: The fight over Kavanaugh is tanking Heitkamp's campaign

MINOT, N.D. -- By the time you read this the U.S. Senate may very well have voted on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Or maybe not. Writing before my deadline I won’t hazard a guess on an outcome from this partisan inquisition.

There is one conclusion we can reach, however. The mean-spirited, thoroughly repugnant crusade against Kavanaugh by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s political party has created a backlash which has damaged her re-election campaign.

I made this argument in my last print column, pointing to a survey commissioned by North Dakota’s NBC News affiliates which showed the Democrat’s challenger, Congressman Kevin Cramer, with a 10-point lead.

Cramer, a Republican, has led in every single poll released to the public since February, but until the Kavanaugh fight began those leads were consistently small.

Now Cramer has opened up a big lead in two back-to-back polls this week, including the one from the NBC affiliates and another commissioned by Fox News showing him with a 12-point lead.

Democrats, meanwhile, are doing damage control.

They are, not unjustifiably, showing us the photo of a smug Heitkamp holding up a newspaper headline her opponent’s polling lead like a female Harry Truman.

They’ve also released polling of the Red River Valley region showing their candidate winning, though their selectively self-serving release of data caused a lot of eyes to roll.

It can often seem as though North Dakota Democrats forget western North Dakota is a thing which exists, but do they really need to be reminded the Senate race will be decided by an electorate larger than just the voters in Fargo, West Fargo, and Grand Forks?

Anyway, back to the reason for this dramatic shift in fortunes for the candidates, the cause is Kavanaugh.

A recent Harvard/Harris poll indicates 60 percent of Americans want Kavanaugh confirmed as long as there is no corroboration of the accusations against him.

The poll respondents made it clear they do not like the way the Democrats have handled this situation either.

About three-quarters of respondents said Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) should have turned over Christine Blasey Ford’s letter accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct as soon as she received it as opposed to sitting on it.

A majority of those surveyed said the confirmation process was “was politicized and mishandled.”

Nearly 70 percent of respondents called the process a “national disgrace.”

A majority, 63 percent, said they believe Kavanaugh will ultimately be confirmed.

Remember, this was a national poll. We might consider these attitudes could be amplified among North Dakota’s right-leaning electorate who are already inclined to be sympathetic to President Donald Trump and his nominees.

What we are left with, then, is a Democratic Senate incumbent who, lacking the courage of the convictions expressed in her campaign messaging, has utterly failed to call out her own party for perpetrating a weeks-long travesty on Judge Kavanaugh and his family.

Now she’s paying for it at the polls, and even voting for Kavanaugh may not be enough to reverse the trend.

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort and listen on WDAY AM 970.

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