Public support for Kavanaugh had turned negative even before latest allegation of sexual misconduct

Popular support had been waning for the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh even before a bombshell allegation of sexual assault appeared late Sunday.

According to several public opinion polls, taken before the latest allegation, public support for Kavanaugh's nomination is now lower than for any Supreme Court nominee since Robert Bork.

On Sunday, in a bombshell report from The New Yorker, one of the judge's Yale University classmates, Deborah Ramirez, said he exposed himself to her at a college party in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh called the allegation a "smear" and said that "this alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen."

Just hours earlier, the Senate Judiciary Committee had announced it had reached an agreement to hold a public hearing Thursday for Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, another accuser who said he sexually assaulted her at a party when they were teenagers.

The Judiciary Committee also contacted Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti after he claimed on Sunday that a client of his had damaging information about Kavanaugh.

Mike Davis, the chief counsel for nominations for the Senate Judiciary Committee, emailed him requesting the information, according to a message Avenatti publicly shared.

The latest disclosures have widened the partisan divide on Kavanaugh's nomination and intensified pressure on a handful of senators from both major parties who will play a critical role in determining whether Kavanaugh is confirmed.

Even before the latest disclosures, public support had been turning against Kavanaugh's nomination, according to a series of public opinion polls.

One of the most recent, from Fox News, found that 40 percent of voters support Kavanaugh's confirmation while 50 percent oppose it. That negative view shows up in results of other polls on Kavanaugh, taken before the latest report of alleged sexual assault.

Other polls have produced similar results. Before the latest allegation, opposition to Kavanaugh's nomination had increased five points compared with the initial poll on his confirmation in July, according to Gallup, with the percentage in favor down two points.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken a week ago found that more American voters opposed Kavanaugh's nomination than supported it, with opposition increasing 9 points since last month. In the poll — which was conducted last Sunday through Wednesday — 38 percent of voters say they oppose Kavanaugh's nomination to serve on the nation's highest court, including 27 percent who "strongly" oppose him.

That's compared with 34 percent who support his nomination, including 25 percent who "strongly" support him. Twenty-eight percent say they don't know enough to have an opinion.

Support for Kavanaugh is lower than past nominees to the high court, according to survey research from Gallup. Only Harriet Miers, whose 2005 nomination by George W. Bush was withdrawn, faced greater public opposition than support.

Already, several Republicans who could swing the vote have expressed qualms about pushing forward with the judge's confirmation.

Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican and Judiciary Committee member, and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., have both been outspoken critics of the Trump administration and have pressed for a full hearing on allegations from Ford. The two senators will retire in January.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, could determine Kavanaugh's fate by themselves. The two women, who generally support abortion rights, were considered swing votes even before accusations surfaced from Ford and Ramirez. The senators have expressed concerns about whether Kavanaugh would consider voting to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion rights nationwide.

A group of Collins' Maine constituents has launched a campaign urging her to vote against Kavanaugh, raising more than $1 million in pledges, money that the group said would go to her opponent in 2020 if she decides to support the judge.

Republicans aren't the only ones facing a tough decision on Kavanaugh. So are a handful of Democrats running for re-election in November in states that Trump carried easily in 2016. Three of those senators — Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana — joined the GOP last year in confirming Trump's first Supreme Court choice, Justice Neil Gorsuch.


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