Most women voters were already trending blue, but there’s a flip side to the gender-gap story. Women on the Republican right—70 percent of GOP women, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll—remain bullish about Kavanaugh and the party that’s pushing for a speedy confirmation. For now, at least, they’re staying loyal. As the former Florida GOP congressional candidate Gina Sosa remarked a week ago on CNN, referring to Ford: “I mean, we’re talking about a 15-year-old girl, which I respect … But we’re talking about a 17-year-old boy in high school with testosterone running high. Tell me, what boy hasn’t done this in high school? Please, I would like to know.”
Sosa was duly informed, by many men on social media, that they never did such things in high school, but in the CNN segment she was seconded by Lourdes Castillo de la Peña, a Florida GOP fund-raiser: “How can we believe the word of a woman of something that happened 36 years ago? [Kavanaugh] is an altar boy, a scout.”
Kavanaugh is also a victim, at least according to the Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce. Appearing Monday night on Tucker Carlson’s Fox show, she segued from general sympathy for sexual-assault victims to her contention that Kavanaugh’s critics are fascists: “You’ve got Brett Kavanaugh effectively being used as a stand-in for all perpetrators … So many women have not been believed or been heard, and that is unfair and we’ve got to fix it, but we’re not going to fix it by becoming fascists and by blaming every man and presuming every man is guilty.”
The growing partisan split over sexual-misconduct allegations
Conservative women are typically trying to thread that needle—voicing support for beleaguered members of their gender, with a frisson of feminist sisterhood, before pivoting back to their support for Kavanaugh. Their titular leader, of course, is the Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, who told CBS News earlier this week, “I am personally very aggrieved for all [sexual-assault victims]. But are we going to put decades of pent-up demand for women to feel whole on one man’s shoulders?”
But much of the conservative female support for Kavanaugh is predictably tribal. Liberals and Democrats oppose Kavanaugh, the conservatives say, and therefore their arguments are illegitimate. Alice Stewart, a former aide to Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, does the delicate dance in a CNN guest column. On the one hand, she says, “I cannot begin to understand the pain and anguish associated with being a victim of a sexual assault,” but on the other hand, she says, “the GOP must maintain a united front on Kavanaugh due to the fact that many Senate Democrats have already made up their minds.”
Brett Kavanaugh could make the midterms a landmark election for women.
Meanwhile, Concerned Women for America, a long-standing conservative group based in Washington, has sustained its support for Kavanaugh by dismissing the sexual-assault allegations as partisan hits. Its state-chapter directors have done the same. Bev Ehlen, the group’s Missouri leader, said in August that “everything we know about this nominee speaks of his excellence.” But have the sexual-assault allegations signaled that perhaps there is more to know? Not according to Ehlen, who wrote on Monday that it’s important “to consider the political position of the accuser, who is publicly identified as an opposition supporter and who also failed to make any report of the single event.” (Ford is a registered Democrat who participated in a 2017 March for Science.)