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GOP's Kavanaugh Victory Is A Midterm Motivator, Lotter Says


Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in to the U.S. Supreme Court over the weekend, ending a toxic confirmation process. The 50-48 Senate vote to confirm was one of the closest in history, and it fell largely along party lines, with only one Republican voting against Kavanaugh and one Democrat voting in his favor. Now there's debate over how Kavanaugh's appointment might impact the midterm elections in November. And joining us now is Marc Lotter. He's a former special assistant to President Trump and also an adviser to the president's 2020 campaign. He joins us from our New York studios.

Mr. Lotter, good morning.

MARC LOTTER: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

GREENE: Well, thanks for coming on. So I know President Trump is going to be holding rallies in support of Republican candidates throughout this month as we get closer to the election. How will Justice Kavanaugh's appointment play into his message?

LOTTER: I think it'll be a major motivator for Republicans as another promise made, promise kept. The president ran in 2016 on delivering and nominating conservative people who believe in the Constitution and the rule of law the way it's written, so it'll be seen as a major victory amongst Republicans.

GREENE: Yesterday, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, defended her vote in favor of Kavanaugh's nomination and said this on CNN about the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion.


SUSAN COLLINS: I do not believe that Brett Kavanaugh will overturn...

DANA BASH: Precedents are overturned all the time.

COLLINS: They aren't overturned all the time.

GREENE: So Collins is saying she's confident that Kavanaugh will not overturn Roe v. Wade. When you talk about energy in your party, I mean, how much of the political benefit for Republicans depends on their belief that Roe might be overturned, that that's something that might happen?

LOTTER: I think Republicans look at it through the lens of, what does the law actually say? And in many cases - and Justice Kavanaugh said during his confirmation - as most Supreme Court or judicial nominees say - they say each case is unique; each case has its own unique facts, and you have to apply the law to that. I don't think there's going to actually be a case where Roe v. Wade is considered or is overturned. It'll be each case is decided on the individual merits of that claim and compared against the law.

GREENE: But are you worried that some of the president's evangelical supporters, I mean, many of whom weren't huge fans of the president when it came to other issues but really stood by him talking about the promise of having a more conservative court - if they don't see the prospect of Roe being overturned, might that cost the president politically?

LOTTER: I don't think in the long term. I think what you what you will see is a long-term commitment from the court, from the various justices, to rule on these cases as the laws were written or as the Constitution was written. And it will be a push against the liberal activist court which tries to create laws through their judicial rulings.

GREENE: I want to ask you, Mr. Lotter, about a Politico poll that was taken during this bitter confirmation process. It showed support for President Trump among Republican women dropping sharply - I mean, 12 points within a period of a week or so. Was it a good idea for the president to mock Kavanaugh's accusers?

LOTTER: Well, I would disagree that the president mocked his accusers. He was bringing out some very real questions about the testimony gaps in that testimony. And what I think long term...

GREENE: Although during his speech in Mississippi, I mean, he certainly seemed to be mocking her, and that got a lot of laughter from the crowd.

LOTTER: He was highlighting inconsistencies in the story and in areas where there were gaps in the information. But I'll tell you, when you look at the way that the radical left has acted in the last few days specifically, I think long term, it's going to actually bring many moderate, middle-of-the-road, educated women back to the Republican Party. When they see people banging on the doors of the Supreme Court trying to claw their way in, the shrieking of protesters coming in the Senate confirmation and in the halls of the Senate, people standing inches away from police officers, screaming expletives in their face - that is not something that is going to attract many people who might be more middle-of-the-road when they see this activism.

GREENE: I just want to stop you there, if I may. You saw the women who were confronting senators in the halls of the Capitol as shrieking? I don't think that's something they would want to be...

LOTTER: I would - in the chambers while they...

GREENE: That's not a label they would like.

LOTTER: ...While the chambers, when the - during the vote was going on, you had people shrieking. You had people screaming, disrupting the proceedings during the confirmation vote. You had people screaming at senators walking through the halls of the United States Senate. These kinds of radical activist activities and protests are not something I think that is going to engender the Democrat Party toward many middle-of-the-road, moderate folks. It's just not something that is - it's very visually and emotionally raw and against, generally, what people believe.

GREENE: What is radical about opposing sexual assault?

LOTTER: It's not a question about opposing sexual assault. Everyone opposes sexual assault. It's how do we conduct our business? And when you look at the people who are literally trying to claw the doors open of the Supreme Court building while Justice Kavanaugh was taking his oath of office, when you look at people screaming expletives in the faces of police officers who are standing there just doing their job, is that where we want to go as a country? And I think when you look at the upcoming midterm elections, when you look at making that choice between continuing the progress that we're seeing going on in this country or turning the country over to these radicals who are protesting, who are screaming, who are threatening to take us away from those - that progress, I think it's going to be something that many people who are moderate, middle-of-the-road will find it to be objectionable that they're going to go to this radicalism.

GREENE: All right. Marc Lotter was special assistant to President Trump, and he's an adviser on his 2020 campaign. Mr. Lotter, thanks, as always.

LOTTER: Thank you.

GREENE: Want to turn to NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley, who's been listening in on the conversation. Scott, what struck you most there?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Well, David, I'm not sure any of us really know how the Brett Kavanaugh fight is going to affect turnout in the midterm elections. It may be that it affects it differently in different stripes of the Republican coalition. But there's no question President Trump thinks this will be a motivator for social conservatives and evangelicals. Putting his stamp on not only the Supreme Court, but the lower courts has been one of the things that has endeared this thrice-married billionaire from New York City to social conservatives. And that's one reason we're going to see the president kind of put an exclamation point on this tonight when he holds this ceremonial swearing in for Brett Kavanaugh at the White House. You know, Kavanaugh was already sworn in in a quiet ceremony on Saturday just hours after the Senate vote. That was kind of the quickie wedding you do when you're in a hurry for some reason. Now they're going to have the big lavish party so the family can get dressed up and you can get all the presents.

GREENE: So - we only have a couple of seconds left - but so much speculation about whether this appointment is going to change the court in some significant way.

HORSLEY: I think it's absolutely going to shift the court to the right. Whether that is dramatic and swift or slow and steady remains to be seen. But there's no question this is going to shift the court to the right.

GREENE: NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Scott, thanks.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.