That's a different political calculus than existed a month ago, before Christine Blasey Ford went public with her allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. (Kavanaugh vehemently denies the allegations.) Then, when the Kavanaugh nomination fight was a traditional ideological clash, Republicans saw winning as the minimum necessary to preserve morale among conservatives' base in an otherwise dispiriting midterm election season.
Now, the politics of grievance has turned that around. The hearings last week, in which both Kavanaugh and defenders like Sen. Lindsey Graham raged against what they call character assassination, brought a new level of emotional intensity to the Republican campaign.
In recent days, pollsters have reported rising interest in the election among rank-and-file Republicans. That has narrowed the "enthusiasm gap" that all year has benefited Democrats outraged by the Trump presidency.
Emotional intensity produces voter turnout. The challenge facing Republicans is preserving it for the remaining four weeks of the campaign.
Confirmation of Kavanaugh on the Senate floor in the next few days may sap that intensity. Like politicians and the news media, voters have short attention spans.
But a defeat at the hands of Democrats and moderate Republican defectors would heighten the belief of conservatives that they remain under siege in American culture even as the GOP controls Congress and the White House. For Republican campaign strategists, that's political gold.