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U.S. Circuit Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Judicial Crisis Network has launched the latest phase of its campaign to pressure red-state Democrats in West Virginia, North Dakota, Indiana, and Alabama to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Why this matters: JCN, the right's deepest-pocketed judicial group, was the most powerful outside group that helped confirmed Trump's first justice, Neil Gorsuch. The group, which can legally protect its donors' anonymity, spent millions flooding the airwaves on Gorsuch's behalf. The ad buy, worth $1.5 million, takes JCN spending to $5.3 million since Justice Anthony Kennedy retired from the court.

The big picture: The JCN ads accuse red state Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana of being beholden to "liberal Chuck Schumer" and Elizabeth Warren.

  • A senior leader of JCN described this argument to Axios: "Those Senators like to present themselves as independent and moderate, but we believe the people of their states deserve to know that their Senators are taking marching orders from a liberal NY Senator."
  • JCN is also running ads attacking Democratic Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Doug Jones of Alabama of siding with "the radical liberals."

The other side: Progressives appear to be better organized this time around, and JCN is now contending with a well-coordinated array of groups on the left that are mobilizing against Kavanaugh.

  • Demand Justice — a nonprofit formed by veterans of the White House, Capitol Hill, and the Clinton and Obama campaigns — recently launched a five-figure digital ad campaign in Iowa, California, and D.C. urging voters to call their senators' offices and demand no hearing until all of Kavanaugh's records from his time in the George W. Bush administration are turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • On Friday, however, Judge Kavanaugh moved closer to a confirmation hearing as he submitted a 110-page questionnaire, and 2,000 pages of material containing biographical information, previously delivered speeches, writings and past court filings, to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

By the numbers: Support for Kavanaugh is not only present but dominant in these red-states with Democratic senators, according to North Star Opinion Research. (No surprise here, given Trump won these states handily in 2016.)

  • North Dakota: 60% of voters say Judge Kavanaugh should be confirmed, while 22% said he should not be.
  • Alabama: 54% to 30%
  • Indiana: 52% to 34%
  • West Virginia: 55% to 30%

In each state, North Star's data shows that Independents' support Kavanaugh's confirmation by at least 48%.

The bottom line: Judge Kavanaugh has considerable support, and would shift the Supreme Court substantially to the right, if confirmed. Following the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump could have two major conservative victories that will change the landscape of the Supreme Court for decades.

Go deeper: Where Judge Kavanaugh sits on the ideological spectrum

Go deeper

Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the sole "no" votes.

Why it matters: Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon and President Biden's second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.

House will transmit article of impeachment to Senate on Monday, Schumer says

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the House will deliver the article of impeachment against former President Trump for "incitement of insurrection" on Monday.

Why it matters: The Senate is required to begin the impeachment trial at 1pm the day after the article is transmitted.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Private equity bets on delayed tax reform in Biden administration

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

In normal times, private equity would be nervous about Democratic Party control of both the White House and Congress. But in pandemic-consumed 2021, the industry seems sanguine.

Driving the news: Industry executives and lobbyists paid very close attention to Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen's confirmation hearings this week, and came away convinced that tax reform isn't on the near-term agenda.