McCaskill polling her supporters on Supreme Court decision

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill is polling supporters as she considers whether to vote for President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee — a decision that could make or break her re-election campaign.

McCaskill in a Tuesday email asked campaign supporters to fill out a survey on the nomination of conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh, noting that “with so much at stake, I need to know where you stand on this ASAP.”

The questionnaire doesn’t ask whether McCaskill should vote to confirm Kavanaugh. It asks participants which issues considered by the Supreme Court are most important to them: The Affordable Care Act, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on abortion, voting rights, net neutrality, immigration or something else. The survey ends with a request for campaign donations.

While McCaskill’s likely Republican opponent — state Attorney General Josh Hawley — quickly threw his support behind Kavanaugh, the incumbent senator is holding off on announcing a decision. She risks alienating Trump supporters she hopes to win over by voting against Kavanaugh, but she could upset her Democratic base if she supports him. Hawley started hammering her on the issue even before Trump announced his pick.

“I look forward to thoroughly examining Judge Kavanaugh’s record in the coming weeks as the Senate considers his nomination to replace Justice Kennedy,” McCaskill said in a Monday statement.

A favorite of the Republican legal establishment in Washington, Kavanaugh, 53, is a former law clerk for Kennedy. Like Trump’s first nominee last year, Justice Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh would be a young addition who could help remake the court for decades.

McCaskill is up for re-election in a state Trump won by almost 19 points. Hawley, a former clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts, has seized on the Supreme Court vacancy as he works to motivate Republican voters in the state hoping to unseat McCaskill.

Hawley’s first television ad of the campaign — launched hours before Trump’s announcement of Kavanaugh on Monday — is focused on drawing a distinction between him and McCaskill over Supreme Court nominees.

“Claire McCaskill wants liberals in charge. That’s how she votes,” Hawley said in the ad. “That’s not Missouri’s way, and it won’t be my way.”

A release sent by McCaskill’s office on Monday noted she’s voted in support of more than two-thirds of Trump’s judicial nominations, although she has voted along party lines for Supreme Court picks since she took office.

During McCaskill’s 2006 campaign for Senate, she said she opposed former President George W. Bush’s nomination of Justice Samuel Alito but would have voted for Roberts. As a senator, she voted for both of former President Barack Obama’s appointees: Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. McCaskill voted against Gorsuch.

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