I think Susan Collins had no good choice here. Her vote to confirm buys her a credible and well-funded challenger, but a vote the other way would likely have created a primary challenge from the right. It seems to me that while Collins has rarely deviated from conservative orthodoxy with respect to her actual votes, she has carefully cultivated a reputation as a moderate (chiefly by claiming to respect reproductive choice for women). This and incumbency has so far protected her politically, but Democrats (especially women) in Maine will now do everything they can to replace her. This challenge comes in 2020, when Democrats will also show up in force to vote against Donald Trump if he runs again. I think she had a better chance to win a challenge from the right and keep the seat by voting no on Kavanaugh but supporting his just-as-conservative replacement.
Joe Manchin faced a similar problem except that he depends on some level of support from conservatives to keep his seat where Collins depends on marginal liberals for hers. I would suggest to Senator Manchin that (like in Maine) a “right thing to do” vote against Kavanaugh would have kept enough conservatives in his corner as long as he votes to confirm Trump’s next choice. And as in Maine voting to confirm Kavanaugh will alienate Democrats he needs to win. It’s too late for a primary challenge from the left, but to win he needs every vote he can get, and many women will now stay home. Continue reading