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No-win situation for Senate Republicans imperils Kavanaugh

As Republicans wrestle with the increasingly complicated politics of Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, it’s getting even harder to envision him winning confirmation.

That’s true for those who think his chances have dipped far below 50 percent, and even for some who once thought he was a sure thing but now see a slight chance that he withdraws or loses a Senate floor vote.

On the odds-making site PredictIt, shares of Kavanaugh becoming the next Supreme Court justice have dropped 4 cents to 32 cents, compared to 68 cents for his nomination failing.

And even as the White House and the Republican National Committee maneuvered to undercut new allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh, a White House official told NBC News on Sunday night that there are no plans to back out — the kind of tepid endorsement that sometimes precedes the abandonment of an embattled nominee or administration official.

Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey judge and legal analyst, said on Fox Business on Monday morning that the fate of Kavanaugh's nomination doesn't rest on whether he can disprove the claims against him — which he denies — but whether he or his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is more believable on Thursday, when they are scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"It's a case of lasting impressions," Napolitano said. "Is Judge Kavanaugh so damaged that he will lose if it's a tie?"

If it becomes more politically or morally painful for a handful of Republican senators to vote for him than to kill his nomination quietly without a vote, the denouement of the Kavanaugh saga will be a quick whimper of withdrawal.

But some of Kavanaugh’s supporters warn that the political calculation isn’t that simple.

Matt Schlapp, who travels the country talking to Republican activists in his role as chairman of the American Conservative Union, said there will be a “meltdown” in the GOP that could doom the party in the midterm elections if Kavanaugh isn’t confirmed.

“Any disruption in support of Kavanaugh will harm their ability to win races and depress activists,” he said in a telephone interview with NBC News on Sunday night.

Trump’s Supreme Court picks — Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch — have helped bond together an uneasy coalition of Trump’s base, longtime Republican activists and GOP establishment-types, he said, adding that the president “understands the politics” of that better than anyone.

“Donald Trump is not going to back away from his Supreme Court nominee because of these types of allegations,” said Schlapp, who is a friend of Kavanaugh's, and whose wife Mercedes Schlapp is an aide to Trump.

By Jonathan Allen

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