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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Top Republicans tell Axios that they're seeing a surprising and widespread surge in GOP voter enthusiasm, powered largely by support for Brett Kavanaugh and his Supreme Court nomination.

What they're saying: "The Kavanaugh debate has dropped a political grenade into the middle of an electorate that had been largely locked in Democrats' favor for the past six months," said Josh Holmes, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

  • Pointing to Montana, Indiana, West Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee, Holmes added: "[P]rivate polling shows the enthusiasm shift is ... unmistakable in the red states that will determine control of the Senate."

In North Dakota, one of the top races, a Fox News poll yesterday showed Republican challenger Kevin Cramer leading Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) by 12 points (53%-41%) — up from four points last month.

  • "ND now appears out of reach entirely for Democrats," Holmes said.

Another stark example:

  • Missouri Rising Action, a super PAC backing Republican Josh Hawley, yesterday got back numbers from pollster Jim McLaughlin showing Hawley leading Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) by 52-44.
  • That's a huge swing from the previous poll, in June, which had McCaskill leading Hawley 46-42.

Across the critical midterm states, Republicans point to a major mood swing among voters — what one top operative called a "tidal shift."

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released yesterday found that the "wide Democratic enthusiasm advantage that has defined the 2018 campaign up to this point has disappeared," NPR reported.

  • "In July, there was a 10-point gap between the number of Democrats and Republicans saying the November elections were 'very important.' Now, that is down to 2 points, a statistical tie."
  • Republican pollster Glen Bolger, co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, agreed that Democrats' enthusiasm advantage dissipated since the Kavanaugh-Ford hearing. Before that, he said, GOP lassitude was "very scary."

⚠️ Caution: This doesn't mean GOP problems are solved. They still have a huge problem with independent voters.

  • But GOP pollsters and strategists like Bolger are breathing slightly easier because they are at least more confident now that the Republican base wants to turn out and vote in the midterms.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on a conference call with some major donors yesterday that fresh party polling showed the Kavanaugh fight had awakened Republican voters in some key House districts.

  • McCarthy said on Fox News: "Prior to the Kavanaugh hearing, the intensity level was really on the Democratic side ... But in the last week there has been a fundamental shift."

Be smart: Steven Law — a former McConnell chief of staff who runs the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC — warned that hard data is limited so far. But he said "a broad bitstream of calls, emails, cabbie conversations and other inputs from non-D.C. sources ... suggest a strongly negative reaction that is building far beyond the Beltway to where the Democrats and the media have taken this."

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Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

Treasury begins dispersing $350 billion in COVID relief funding to states and localities

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Treasury on Monday began giving state and local governments access to $350 billion in emergency funding from the American Rescue Plan, the department announced Monday.

Why it matters: Though the money is aimed at helping state, local, territorial and tribal governments recover from the pandemic's economic fallout, the administration will generally give them wide latitude on how they can use the funds.

Game developers break silence around salaries

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Developers are sharing their salaries on Twitter under the hashtag #GameDevPaidMe to encourage pay transparency in their industry.

The big picture: The hashtag started circulating last year, but has returned periodically as developers fight for better working conditions. Salary sharing is a way to equalize the field. By removing the secrecy, as well as the stigma, around discussing pay, workers have more power to advocate for themselves when negotiating salaries and raises.

2 hours ago - World

Jerusalem crisis: Hamas fires rockets, Israel begins military campaign

Palestinian protesters and an Israeli police officer near the Damascus Gate. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Days of tension in Jerusalem escalated into an exchange of fire on Monday, as Hamas fired dozens of rockets toward Israel and the Israeli military responded with strikes of its own and said it was preparing for a military operation that could last several days.

Why it matters: This is the first time Hamas has fired rockets at Jerusalem since 2014, and it's the most serious escalation between the Israelis and Palestinians in many months. It comes during the most sensitive days on the calendar — the last days of Ramadan and the Jerusalem Day commemoration on Monday — and as political crises roil both the Israeli and Palestinian governments.