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Trump's new Supreme Court nominee fails to garner broad public support

By some measures, Judge Brett Kavanaugh enjoys less public support than any Supreme Court nominee in a generation. So what happens now?
US Judge Brett Kavanaugh speaks after being nominated by US President Donald Trump (L) to the Supreme Court in the East Room of the White House on July 9,...

Last week, Donald Trump fielded a few questions from reporters, one of whom asked about NATO. The president's answer meandered a bit and led to some boasts about his pending Supreme Court nominee.

"Brett Kavanaugh has gotten rave reviews -- rave reviews -- actually, from both sides," Trump said. "And I think it's going to be a beautiful thing to watch over the next month. But he has gotten rave reviews."

Not from the public he hasn't. The Pew Research Center released the results yesterday of a new national survey.

A week after Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, the public is split in its early views of the nomination. Overall, 41% think the Senate should confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, while about as many (36%) say they should not; 23% do not offer a view on the question. Public is split on Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme CourtIn February 2017, views of Neil Gorsuch's nomination were similar, though the balance of opinion was more positive. At that time, 44% said the Senate should confirm Gorsuch to fill the seated vacated by the late Justice Antonin Scalia; fewer (32%) said it should not.And most previous nominees to the court during the presidencies of Barack Obama and George W. Bush were initially viewed more positively than negatively.

Note, for example, that in 2005, 27% of Americans said Harriet Miers shouldn't be confirmed to the Supreme Court, less than the 36% who now say the same about Kavanaugh, and Miers' nomination was kind of ridiculous.

The results were nearly identical to those released yesterday by Gallup, which found a narrow plurality of 41% of Americans want to see Kavanaugh confirmed, while 37% do not. The report added, "This four-percentage-point margin is slimmer than any Gallup has measured in its initial read on 10 prior nominees since 1987."

As for why Kavanaugh's support is weak, and whether it'll matter, the questions get a little tricky.

On the former, there are a variety of possible explanations. It's easy to imagine, for example, that Donald Trump is unpopular, so his Supreme Court nominee is unpopular simply by virtue of the association.

But my best guess is that much of the recent coverage has focused on the likely consequences of Kavanaugh's confirmation -- including, among other things, the expected demise of the Roe v. Wade precedent -- and much of the public is understandably concerned about the dramatic changes a newly emboldened, far-right Supreme Court might impose.

As for whether public attitudes will matter or not, it certainly can't hurt the progressive push to derail the process, or at least slow it down. Senators who find themselves on the fence about Kavanaugh might consider, at a minimum, the public's wishes.

The better question, however, is just how many senators may find themselves on the fence.