Graham says Democrats will come around on Kavanaugh nomination following hearing

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday that he believes Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed if he does well in this week’s upcoming hearings before the Senate.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Graham, R-S.C., noted that, despite opposition from numerous high-profile Democrats, Kavanaugh should have won the support of the majority of senators by the time his hearings conclude.

“If he does well at the hearings, he’ll get 55 votes or higher,” Graham told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “There are a handful of Democrats that will vote for Justice Kavanaugh if he does well.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee begins confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge, on Tuesday with his introduction and opening statements from lawmakers. Questioning of the nominee will begin the next day and testimony from the American Bar Association, outside legal experts and those who know him best will follow.

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With liberal advocacy groups adamantly opposed to Kavanaugh and Democrats wanting to fire up their base for the coming election, Senate questioning will be aggressive and opening statements forceful. But Republicans, with their 50-49 majority, have the edge.

Trump nominated Kavanaugh to succeed Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered the swing vote on some of the most important issues decided in recent years. Democrats are worried that Kavanaugh's confirmation will cement a right-leaning court for many years to come. They contend his elevation could lead the court to restrict a woman's right to choose an abortion, equal rights for gays and lesbians and environmental protections.

The abortion issue has become a flashpoint topic in Kavanaugh's nomination, with many pro-choice lawmakers on both sides of the aisle concerned that his confirmation would be the nail in the coffin for Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision ruling that unduly restrictive state regulations on abortion are unconstitutional.

While Kavanaugh is said to have told Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that Roe v. Wade is settled law, many other lawmakers are not so sure.

“He is the most unpopular Supreme Court nominee in the last 40 years,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “The president has said he will not put someone on the Supreme Court who wouldn’t overturn Roe v. Wade and ObamaCare.”

Graham on Sunday tried to assuage the concerns of his fellow senators by arguing that Kavanaugh would not immediately try to overturn precedent and that he would be a Supreme Court justice willing to hear all sides.

“There is a process for overturning precedent,” Graham noted. “[Kavanaugh] would be disqualified in my mind if he wasn’t willing to hear both sides.”

Despite most lawmakers having strong opinions on Kavanaugh, that cannot be said for the American public.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, released last week, found that nearly half of Americans — 46 percent — don't have a strong opinion on Trump's nominee to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the high court.

That ambivalence runs even deeper among independent voters, as fully two-thirds say they've not formed an opinion on whether the federal appeals court judge deserves a promotion. Some people who haven't yet formed an opinion say they need more information.

While the parties have clashed over whether Kavanaugh should receive a vote before Election Day, Americans are evenly divided on that question: 51 percent saying vote now and 48 percent preferring lawmakers wait until after voters have cast their ballots.

Among all Americans, those who do have an opinion divide about evenly, with 25 percent in favor of Kavanaugh's elevation to Supreme Court justice and 29 percent opposed. Those opinions are divided primarily by partisan lines.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.