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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed later today, as looks all but certain, he'll be numerically one-ninth of the Supreme Court. But he'll draw a vastly disproportionate share of attention and speculation, controversy and criticism.

Why it matters: Both sides made it clear last night that they plan to keep Kavanaugh in the news for political purposes, deepening and prolonging the most divisive new issue of the Trump era.

  • As the decisive vote tipping the justices to the conservative side, he effectively makes this the Kavanaugh Court.
  • "Abortion, affirmative action, campaign finance, gay rights — all those are going to go in a very different direction because Anthony Kennedy is gone and Brett Kavanaugh will be there," legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said on CNN.

President Trump was ecstatic last night — very fired up and happy, an aide tells Jonathan Swan.

  • Trump has been briefed on the polling impact — on his own approval rating, and on the "Brett bounce" that is closing enthusiasm gap between Rs and Ds for midterms, 31 days from now.
  • So look for the president to trumpet the win and continue to brag about the Kavanaugh confirmation, as he continues to do about Justice Neil Gorsuch.
  • “It feels like the narrative of what’s going on in 2016," a White House official told Swan. "The reality is probably more mixed."

Top Dems tell me that the impeachment of Kavanaugh, however impractical, will be an irresistible applause line for the party's 2020 hopefuls in New Hampshire and Iowa in the months after Nov. 6.

  • Look for Democrats to try to hold off on a Kavanaugh impeachment crusade for the next month, though, to avoid elevating a painful issue for Senate Democrats running in red states.

Republicans are already fanning that fire. Donald Trump Jr. was the first political figure on the right to come out pushing the impeachment message after it became clear that Kavanaugh had the votes:

  • "Trump supporters - The fight isn’t over. You better believe that Democrats are going to do everything in their power to impeach Kavanuagh from the Supreme Court if they take control of Congress in November. This is war. Time to fight. Vote on Nov 6 to protect the Supreme Court!"

Andy Surabian, a GOP strategist who ran the Trump Tower war room in 2016, tells us: "[T]o keep the base enthused through November 6th, Republicans must now turn the midterms into a referendum on Democrats attempting to impeach Judge Kavanaugh from the court."

  • "Fortunately for Republicans, Democrat activists ... are already openly talking about the possibility." (Surabian sent a slew of D tweets that do just that.)
  • "The threat of Democrats impeaching Kavanuagh creates the all-important 'fear of a loss' needed among Republican voters to keep them supercharged for the next five weeks. ... Kavanaugh is rocket fuel to Republican voters."

Don't expect the 5-4 decisions by the Kavanaugh Court to be "humble, meek, narrow," said Brian Fallon, executive director of the progressive Demand Justice:

  • "I expect far-reaching, sweeping decisions. I think they’ll set out to harpoon a bunch of white whales — unions, voting rights, economic regulation."
  • "That'll be like rubbing an open sore. People are going to raise their fist and growl: "Kavanaugh!'"
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Go deeper

Omicron cases confirmed in 4 U.S. states

A healthcare worker inserts a Covid-19 rapid test into a machine in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Five cases of the newly-discovered Omicron variant were detected in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday, making New York the fourth state with confirmed cases.

The latest: In addition to New York, the variant has been confirmed in California, Colorado and Minnesota.

Early winter heat shatters records in U.S., Canada

Temperature departures from average on Dec. 2, 2021, as depicted by the GFS computer model. (Weatherbell.com)

A widespread and intense heatwave is roasting large portions of the U.S. and Canada, shattering daily and monthly temperature records.

Why it matters: Winter is the fastest-warming season across the U.S., and the lingering warmth is shortening the snow season in places like Colorado and Montana, where mountain snowpack is a critical source of water during the summer months.

5 hours ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.