According to polling from the Tarrance Group, commissioned by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, no fewer than 68 percent of North Dakotans want President Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court to be confirmed.
Before we dig into the numbers, some caveats.
First, this polling was clearly conducted before anyone outside of the President himself had an inkling as to who the nominee might be. Last night we learned it is Brett Kavanaugh, but this polling was conducted July 5 through July 8.
Second, the polling has a decidedly right wing provenance. Not only did the SBA List commission it, but the Tarrance Group is the same organization used by the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee to measure the contest between Republican Senate candidate Kevin Cramer and incumbent Heidi Heitkamp.
With those grains of salt in hand, let’s look at the numbers:
You’ll note that this poll asks North Dakota respondents specifically about Senator Heitkamp’s vote. The assumption being, I guess, that Republican Senator John Hoeven is probably a reliable “yes” vote for a Trump nominee.
Which is a safe assumption, I think.
For Heitkamp’s part, she’s eschewing the knee-jerk opposition to Trump’s nominee (left wing protesters at the Supreme Court literally had multiple signs printed up for the different potential nominees) and announcing that she’ll review Kavanaugh’s record and render a decision on confirmation after that:
My statement on the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court: pic.twitter.com/ia1yOICT9P
— Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (@SenatorHeitkamp) July 10, 2018
That’s the safe posturing for Heitkamp to take right now, but let’s not kid ourselves about what will drive Heitkamp’s decision. It will be electoral politics, and not any consideration of Kavanaugh’s record, that drives Heitkamp’s vote.
Though it’s not clear to me which vote is the more political beneficial to Heitkamp at this point. Conventional wisdom is she’ll vote for Kavanaugh to continue her efforts to appease North Dakota’s Republican-tilted electorate ahead of election day, but given the visceral reaction from the left to Kavanaugh (a Fox news broadcast had to be moved away from outside of the Supreme Court last night because the broadcasters felt unsafe) can Heitkamp afford the damage that would do to her left wing base of support?
The gamble Heitkamp and her campaign is making is that they can move to the right this election season while winking at the state’s left wing voters, tacitly assuring them that it’s just an election year ploy. But a vote for Kavanugh might be a bridge too far with that tactic.