The most venomous jabs on Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court are coming from coastal Democrats, hindering the party’s attempt to shed the idea it’s become disconnected from middle America.
Northeastern and left coast Democrats have led the charge, joined by some of the party’s members from Great Lakes states. They opposed Judge Kavanaugh even before he was named, and have only stiffened their stance in the days since.
“We will fight this nomination tooth and nail,” said Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.
That “we,” however, doesn’t extend to all of his members, though.
Democrats from the country’s interior — heavily red country, including states President Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016 — say they plan to give Judge Kavanaugh a chance to make his case, and they seethed at other senators from both parties who’d already made up their minds.
And far from the demonic characterizations some Democrats have offered, the heartland senators have found praise.
Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, called the judge “a family person who’s very involved in his community,” and “a very fine person of high moral standards.”
He told a West Virginia radio station he’s keeping an open mind.
“I don’t have a lean,” he said. “We have to just look at making sure that the rule of law and the Constitution is going to be followed, and that’s going to basically preempt anything else he does.”
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota Democrat, complained on Twitter about senators retreating to partisan corners.
“That isn’t how I work,” she said, reminding her constituents that she gave Mr. Trump’s first Supreme Court pick, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, a fair hearing — and voted to confirm him.
That’s not what Democratic activists at the national level want to hear.
They’re demanding senators use every tactic available to try to defeat the nomination — even if it jeopardizes their own re-election.
Brian Fallon, spokesman for Demand Justice, said Thursday that the next Supreme Court nominee is more important than who controls the House and Senate in the next election.
“I want these senators to look in the mirror and do the right thing,” Mr. Fallon said on ABC News’ Powerhouse Politics podcast. “I want them to take the principled position that they know in their hearts that they would take if they didn’t have to worry about electoral considerations.”
Sen. Doug Jones, Alabama Democrat, said he isn’t paying attention to the carping from the sidelines.
“I don’t think it matters,” Mr. Jones told The Washington Times. “You are going to have a hard line for and you are going to have a hard line against and I am not listening to the hard line voices either way. I want to do my own work and go from there.”
Analysts say it could be disastrous for red state Democrats to adopt a scorched-earth policy toward such a high-profile pick from Mr. Trump.
Mark S. Jendrysik, political science professor at the University of North Dakota, said endangered senators like Ms. Heitkamp have worked to carve out independent identities and distance themselves from the national party — including on the Kavanaugh nomination.
“If there is one person who can thread that needle it is her, but whether it is actually threadable is another question,” Mr. Jendrysik said.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, brushed aside questions of his party’s divisions this week.
Sen. Cory Gardner, his counterpart at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said voters in the heartland are watching.
“If you are a Missouri voter, a North Dakota votes, an Indiana voter, a Florida voter, you have an interest in making sure the president’s nomination gets seated and yet the national party line is just knee-jerk opposition,” Mr. Gardner told The Times.
“If you go out into the heartland of the United States, they want this nomination filled,” said the Colorado Republican. “I think there is a beltway mentality around liberals that is leading them down the wrong path.”