David Axelrod, former chief campaign strategist for President Obama, said in a recent interview that Republicans lit “a tribal fire” with the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Asked what Republicans were smart to do going into the midterm elections, Axelrod pointed to the Kavanaugh hearings as a “hinge” moment.
“I’ve thought one of the most interesting hinge moments in this race has been around the Kavanaugh hearings. Midday after Dr. [Christine Blasey] Ford testified, it looked like a disaster for Republicans, and they made a decision—and I think it was a decision the president was involved in, and McConnell and others—that they were going to go tribal on the thing,” he told Politico.
“And by the afternoon, that’s when they started talking about Democratic mobs, Democratic tactics, and making it a test of sort of party loyalty. They needed to light a tribal fire,” he said.
During Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, thousands of Democrats and celebrities descended on Washington, protesting inside the halls of Congress and the steps of the Supreme Court, screaming into megaphones and even heckling elderly Trump supporters. Republicans went on the offense, labeling the protesters “mobs.”
Axelrod said that typically during midterm elections, voters of the party in power become complacent. But Kavanaugh and the migrant caravan heading to the U.S. border “is a hot-button issue for his voters.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), summed up Republican voter enthusiasm in Ohio on Wednesday.
“If you’re Republican and you’re not excited about voting, you’re legally dead,” he said. “This has been a nightmare for red-state Trump Democrats between the Kavanaugh debacle, despicable character assassination and a caravan trying to overrun our borders.”
“It has unified Republicans, again, whether you are a Bush Republican, Trump Republican, vegetarian Republican, you were upset about what they were doing to Brett Kavanaugh. They tried to destroy this man’s life to hold open the seat so they could fill it,” he said.
“They do not recognize President Trump won the election and he chose a qualified person. And it is resonating all over this country. It has united Republicans, and it has put Democrats on the defensive.”
Meanwhile, Democrat strategists have been fretting that Democrats do not have a “real message” heading into the midterm elections.
Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis told The Hill this week, “In terms of a Democratic Party having even a semblance of a message, it’s just not there and that’s the reason this election is going to be unpredictable. … Nobody should be surprised if it’s a good night or a bad night.”