Missouri could be the key indicator of how important the Supreme Court nominee is in the midterm elections.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh

U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley and fellow Republicans have aggressively used the confirmation of Washington D.C. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh as a campaign wedge issue against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill.

President Trump gave high praise to his high court choice in front of a raucous crowd of 11,000 at a campaign rally Friday night at the JQH Arena in Springfield. Trump called Kavanaugh a “fantastic man” whose confirmation was “going to happen” and said he was born to be on the high court, declaring that Kavanaugh was “out of central casting.”

Hawley complimented Trump for delivering on a promise to nominate “pro-Constitution judges” to the Supreme Court, “judges who love the Constitution, judges who love our country, judges like Brett Kavanaugh.”

The rally in southwest Missouri was partially meant to boost Hawley’s chances against McCaskill in November’s election.

Hawley’s tight bonding with the Supreme Court nominee is now bringing unwanted baggage as Kavanaugh becomes more deeply embattled with sexual misconduct charges as the days pass.

The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday that a second woman is accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misbehavior.  The publication said Deborah Ramirez claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a college party.

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Diane Feinstein of California, sent a letter late Sunday to Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa seeking an “immediate postponement” of any further action on Kavanaugh. The panel had just settled on a Thursday hearing to get testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago when the two were in high school.  Grassley had also arranged for Kavanaugh to appear before the committee to defend himself.

The latest allegations come after McCaskill last Wednesday announced she would vote against Kavanaugh’s nomination for the lifetime high court appointment.  McCaskill said her decision was not based on allegations of sexual impropriety, but rather on Judge Kavanaugh’s positions on key issues, including dark money. 

“He has revealed his bias against limits on campaign donations which places him completely out of the mainstream of this nation,” said McCaskill.

The two-term Senator has made the presence of outside money a central issue to her campaign.  The evening of the August primary, McCaskill told reporters in Columbia that $70-$80 million in outside “dark money” could be spent on the Missouri Senate race and acknowledged that some of it would be spent to help her.  She’s been criticized for not calling out Senate Majority PAC, a 501 (c) (4) organization that isn’t required to report its donors, for spending millions attacking Hawley.

Hawley quickly slammed McCaskill last Wednesday for opposing Kavanaugh’s nomination. 

“Nobody is surprised,” said Hawley.  “Claire McCaskill is now 0 for 6 on Supreme Court nominees since she started running for the Senate 12 long years ago. She has sided with Chuck Schumer every single time – for liberals and against Missouri. Senator McCaskill has forgotten where she’s from and become just another Washington liberal.”

The allegations surrounding Kavanaugh have been compared to the 1991 confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who was accused of sexual harassment by law professor Anita Hill. The Thomas hearings deeply angered women across the country, inspiring large numbers of them to run for office.  The allegations from Dr. Blasey and now a second accuser against Kavanaugh have been brought at the height of the #MeToo movement.

For Missouri, they come after Republican Governor Eric Greitens resigned from office in June, partially over a charge of sexual misconduct by a former mistress.

Republican State Representative Jay Barnes of Jefferson City, who chaired a House committee that investigated Greitens before he left office, told the New York Times that his party would not be able to use the Supreme Court nominee as a campaign weapon. 

“I think the assault allegations neutralize the Kavanaugh issue,” said Barnes.

The Times also quoted former Democratic Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who thinks Republicans that have tightly linked themselves to Kavanaugh could end up paying a price at the polls.

“If this is actually on TV next week, and women see she is telling the truth, that could be very, very persuasive,” said Nixon.

The Missouri Senate race between Hawley and McCaskill remains razor tight and the stakes are very high.  Some analysts believe the race could determine which party controls the Senate in January.  Two major polls from NBC and CBS over the past several weeks have shown Hawley and McCaskill in an outright tie.

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