With Republicans Jeff Flake and Bob Corker coming out in favor of Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination and Democrat Joe Donnelly coming out against, four key undecided votes remain: Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and Democrats Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp. For Kavanaugh to be confirmed, Republicans need only one of these senators on board.
With Collins and Murkowski, who typically drag their feet on divisive votes, we have been here before. The three Democratic swing voters—Donnelly, Manchin, and Heitkamp—all voted for Gorsuch and all are in tight re-election races. On Thursday, Politico’s Burgess Everett reported that Donnelly, Manchin, Collins, and Murkowski were expected to vote the same way. But Donnelly came out against Kavanaugh’s nomination alone on Friday in a statement expressing his “deep reservations” about confirming him to a lifetime appointment.
It’s hard to determine what Donnelly’s decision says about the fate of Kavanaugh’s nomination, other than that it’s clear proof that Collins, Murkowski, and Manchin are all very much undecided.
Heitkamp has expressed support for Christine Blasey Ford and concern about Kavanaugh’s reputation for partisanship even before he ranted and raved about the “left” and the “Clintons” engineering a conspiracy to tarnish his name. Manchin meanwhile said that Kavanaugh had the “right to clear himself” of the allegations.
Manchin and Heitkamp are both concerned about being too closely identified with the Democratic establishment. They are also worried that denying Kavanaugh could excite Republicans in their home states and bring a flood of money to their opponents. If Collins and Murkowski swing no, it seems unlikely that either would cast the deciding vote for Kavanaugh. But if they swing yes and seal the deal, they very well could jump on the bandwagon.