LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
The Supreme Court has a new justice. And Donald Trump has a new and big win.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Just a few hours ago, the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Brett Kavanaugh...
TRUMP: ...To the United States Supreme Court.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's the president at a rally last night in Kansas. We'll hear more about that elsewhere in the show. But let's begin this hour with Molly Ball. She's a political analyst and Time magazine's national political correspondent. Hey, Molly.
MOLLY BALL: Hi.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the Republicans and the president are trying to portray the Democrats as sort of weaponizing the #MeToo movement for political gain. And on the left, many see the Republican Party now as the party of sexual assault supporters, with Roy Moore in Alabama, President Trump on tape saying he has sexually assaulted women and now Kavanaugh, a sitting Supreme Court justice. Where does this leave the country?
BALL: Well, a week ago when Senator Jeff Flake made his extraordinary stand - stalling the nomination for a week in order to let the FBI investigate - what he said was, this is ripping our country apart. And that is really how it has felt. It - the whole episode has been sort of an ice pick into our nation's rawest wounds, if that's not too grody an analogy. You saw, you know, I think people were already angry. But the outpouring of anger that you saw over this nomination, triggered by the nomination, I think signifies just how unsettled a lot of these questions are and how emotional they are for so many people, as you said, on both sides - a left that was already quite exercised, particularly women. And on the right, you know, you had Republicans who might have been feeling discouraged at the relative inaction of the Congress or the Republicans who were on the ballot this year, their inability to give the president some of the things that he has wanted to accomplish. And this is sort of a shot in the arm to them, as you said, a big win for the president.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. The midterm elections are less than a month away. And President Trump has this victory to brag about along with the lowest unemployment numbers in 50 years. For weeks, we've been hearing predictions of a blue wave. But our polling shows that the gap is now closing. Is the wind at the president's back now and the Republicans, too?
BALL: I think - I have no idea, frankly (laughter).
BALL: This close to an election, it's hard to tell what is signal and what is noise, whether you're talking about polling or just sort of the national sentiment. All the signs have been pointing in the direction of a very strong year for the Democrats. You do have Republicans seeing this as a potential last-minute surge for them. But it is still a month away. And that is, frankly, still a lot of time for things to move around. And the trajectory is still rather remarkably - as you said, those statistics are very good for the party in power. Usually, a president with this kind of economic strength is polling quite high. And yet the president is quite unpopular. And that has rubbed off on the Republican Party. And we have seen Republicans really struggling to regain the upper hand and do well in these elections.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. That's the thing, though, right? Because this is a great week for the president. But his poll numbers are still low because it seems that, even at this moment, there are scandals. We have a huge expose by The New York Times, laying bare facts pointing to an egregious tax fraud by him and his family, potentially. The scandals never stop. Did this story hitting at the heart of Trump's appeal as a self-made success get totally drowned out by the fight over the Supreme Court?
BALL: Yes and no. I think it is something that people are going to notice, particularly when Donald Trump is on the ballot once again. And that has been the trick for, you know, a midterm election. The president is there and influencing everything. But he's not actually on the ballot. This is about the Republican Congress. This is about your local Republican representative...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But Trump seems to...
BALL: ...Or your senator.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Loom over everything.
BALL: And he does loom over everything. And Republicans will tell you that he is the main reason that they are struggling so much in this midterm election year. They're sort of paying for the things that he has suffered. So I think that things like the constant thrum of scandal - the Russia scandal, things like this tax investigation - they do always loom over the fate of all of the Republican Party.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Molly Ball is national political correspondent for Time magazine. Thanks so much for coming on.
BALL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.