Kavanaugh confirmation fight puts pressure on Alabama's Democratic senator

The battle to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has focused attention on three red-state Democrats seen as possible swing votes – Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

But one of the Senate’s newest members is emerging as a possible fourth Democratic vote who could consider backing President Trump’s high court pick in the end.

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who was elected to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former seat in December, represents a state that voted for Trump by over 62 percent. This alone has made Jones somewhat of a wild card in the Democratic caucus.  

The senator’s record on confirming Trump political appointees has been mixed, with Jones voting to confirm Secretary of State Mike Pompeo but against the confirmation of CIA Director Gina Haspel.

Political leaders in Alabama and nationally are now trying to pressure Jones to vote in favor of Kavanaugh, with the pro-Kavanaugh Judicial Crisis Network already running ads in the state urging his confirmation.

The Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan also recently tweeted, “All Alabama eyes on @DougJones with one simple question- is it Sen Schumer/Sanders/Warren or Alabama? #alpolitics #Confirm Kavanaugh.”

Jones himself has not said what position he’ll take, and has bristled at the pressure campaign.

In a recent radio interview with FM Talk 1065’s “Midday Mobile,” according to Yellowhammer News, Jones pushed back and vowed to do his “due diligence” with the nomination. “My job is to do an independent review,” Jones said. “One of the problems in America I believe we have now is that everybody goes to their corners, and this is a political fight.”

A spokesman for Jones’ office did not respond to a request for comment for this report. He recently told Fox News’ Chad Pergram, “I’m prepared to vote for a conservative justice, the question is whether I’m prepared to vote for this justice.”

Keeping his views close to the vest might just be the smart move right now, observers say.

“I don’t know what the upside would be to coming out this early on, well in advance of a potential vote in the actual Senate that you're going to vote one way or the other,” Auburn University political science Professor Soren Jordan said. “Instead just let it wither as long as you possibly can to try to avoid upsetting people.”

Jordan noted Jones is in a difficult spot, given many Alabama voters hold different political views than he does. “It’s really hard to navigate those waters of what your individual voters look for you to do.”

A confirmation vote for Kavanaugh could come in the fall if Senate Republican leaders have their way.