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Kavanaugh Battle Is Used By Both Parties To Motivate Voters


Republican and Democratic leaders have one thing in common right now. Both are hoping that the bitter battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh will motivate their base and drive voters to the polls for the midterm elections. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described it as a, quote, "shot of adrenaline" that the GOP got from the confirmation battle, as polls do show that the Republican Party is closing in on Democrats' enthusiasm advantage. This is McConnell over the weekend on CBS' "Face The Nation."


MITCH MCCONNELL: I want to thank the other side for the tactics that have allowed us to kind of energize and get involved our own voters.

GREENE: All right, let's talk about what the Democratic Party might be able to do to try and regain steam. I'm joined by Robby Mook. He was the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2016.

Welcome back to the program.

ROBBY MOOK: Thanks so much.

GREENE: So McConnell seems appreciative for how Democrats handled the confirmation battle over Kavanaugh. I mean, do you worry that the Democrats have given away the edge that they had heading into November?

MOOK: I don't think that the edge has been given away at all. I thought you characterized it quite well, which is that Democrats had a big advantage. And Republicans got a little bit of a bump to try to close that gap. But there's still a significant advantage for Democrats.

GREENE: Although, one of our polls at NPR showed that Republicans went a long way in closing that energy gap. I mean, it sounds like Democrats might have some work to do to sort of widen that gap again. What is the plan?

MOOK: Well, first of all, this is a bump. So I think some of that is temporary. Secondly, the Republicans did a lot of damage to themselves. There are a lot of women in important districts around the country who used to be voting Republican very regularly. We saw a lot of them defect to Democrats in 2016. They were continuing to defect. But now even more of them have moved over to Democrats.

So there's a lot we've gotten out of this. So you know, for Mitch McConnell, this is good spin. They want to make the best out of this. But they've sustained some damage from this as well.

GREENE: Well, you know, Republican strategists are basically framing what your party did as a character assassination on a Supreme Court nominee based on allegations that were not corroborated. And I want to be very careful and obviously take nothing away from the serious charges that were made about Kavanaugh. But do you see how some voters might have seen this as a character assassination? And what can the Democratic Party do to address those concerns?

MOOK: Well, as you said, they are very serious concerns. And I think this was, at the end of the day, a question of due process. I don't think the Republicans were ever serious about getting to the truth. And I think it set a very bad precedent moving forward that it doesn't matter how qualified somebody is; it's just about playing the game to get them through.

I think that that's what people on both sides of the aisle should worry about moving forward. The Democrats are going to be in charge one day too. And we should hope that any U.S. senator wants to get to the bottom of something if an American citizen brings it up.

GREENE: You led Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2016. I know I don't have to remind you that the polls were looking very good for you heading into the election, and Donald Trump ended up winning. Any lessons learned from that as you look to this November?

MOOK: Well, it's a really important question. I think that a lot of pollsters, at least on the Democratic side, are being more conservative in how they are weighting the data that they're receiving in and perhaps presenting a more pessimistic outlook than they might otherwise have. I know also that many pollsters are taking steps that they hadn't taken before to more carefully choose the people who they're interviewing for their surveys because part of the problem, as far as we can tell coming out of '16, was we weren't always capturing precise snapshot of the electorate.

But I think what this comes down to at the end of the day is the polls are at best just a snapshot in time. We still have a ways to go. People have started voting in some states. But to rest on our laurels or to take for granted that we're going to win the House, it's not smart. And we have to continue to press and fight this election out every single day.

GREENE: Robby Mook was campaign manager for Hillary Clinton in 2016, talking to him about the Democratic Party and the party's strategy heading into this election.

Thanks so much. We always appreciate it.

MOOK: My pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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