By Chris Kahn
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill‘s vote against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh‘s confirmation appears not to have cost her greatly in conservative-leaning Missouri, where she is in a tight re-election race, a Reuters opinion poll showed.
The Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics poll released on Wednesday found that 44 percent of likely Missouri voters said they would support McCaskill in the Nov. 6 congressional elections, while 45 percent backed Republican challenger and state Attorney General Josh Hawley.
The poll had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 3 percentage points. Other recent polls also showed the Missouri race as a toss-up.
Democrats need to gain two seats to win control of the U.S. Senate, where they could act as a check on Republican President Donald Trump. Achieving that will require successfully defending Democratic seats in states that Trump won in 2016, which include Missouri, West Virginia and Indiana.
McCaskill joined all but one of her Democratic colleagues in voting against Kavanaugh, who was confirmed by a 50-48 vote after being accused of sexual assault while he was a teenager. The confirmation process became a political brawl that deepened the country’s divisions.
Hawley hammered her for months before the vote, pressuring her to support Kavanaugh and criticizing McCaskill in campaign ads as a “radical.”
The poll showed that McCaskill, who is seeking her third Senate term, may not be penalized much for her no vote on Kavanaugh. Among likely voters, 44 percent said they were “more likely” to support her candidacy because of her opposition to Kavanaugh, while 46 percent said they were “less likely.”
To see poll results: https://tmsnrt.rs/2piev5l
“Kavanaugh may not have changed any minds” in the state, said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the Center for Politics. “People who said they were more likely to vote for her because of him were probably going to do so anyway.”
COURT NOT HIGH ON VOTER PRIORITIES
The Supreme Court did not rank highly among likely voters’ priorities in the state. Respondents were much more likely to cite healthcare, the economy or immigration as top issues for them when deciding which candidate to support.
Almost no one listed the Supreme Court as the most important issue.
Sixty-nine percent of likely voters in the state told the poll said they were “very motivated” to support a candidate who would “defend laws that protect healthcare for people with pre-existing conditions.”
That could spell trouble for Hawley. He has said he wants to protect people with pre-existing conditions, even though he joined a multi-state effort to repeal the federal law that does so, the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.
A separate Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics poll found Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker holding a 20-percentage-point lead over Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner.
The race is on track to be the most expensive governor’s election in U.S. history, with nearly $249.7 million raised so far and most of the money coming from millionaire Rauner and billionaire Pritzker, according to data from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
That is just shy of California’s record-setting $251.9 million 2010 contest between Democrat Jerry Brown and former tech executive Meg Whitman.
“Illinois looks like it’s going to take the lead thanks to two independently wealthy candidates,” said Denise Roth Barber, managing director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
The Missouri and Illinois Reuters polls were conducted online, in English, from Sept. 27 to Oct. 7. They surveyed between 968 and 1,111 likely voters and weighted the responses according to the latest government population estimates.
The results measured how voters felt at the time of the survey. Those feelings may change, In 2016, one in eight Americans decided on the presidential pick in the week before Election Day, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
(Reporting by Chris Kahn; Additional reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney)