Republicans are hoping a “Brett bounce” created by the furious battle over Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick can help them exceed expectations at next month’s midterm elections.
Polls have suggested a recent surge in enthusiasm from Mr Trump’s base as the fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to America’s top court became increasingly heated.
In July, Democrats had a 10-point lead over the Republicans for how many of their supporters saw the midterms as “very important”, according to one survey. That gap is now down to two points.
It indicates how the Supreme Court fight has fired up Republicans and could result in more of them turning out on voting day – a crucial factor for who will win the congressional races.
In particular it will help in 10 Senate races where Democrats are attempting to hold onto their seats in states won comfortably by Mr Trump in the 2016 election, often by double figures.
“Prior to the Kavanaugh hearing, the intensity level was really on the Democratic side,” Kevin McCarthy, a leading Republican congressman, told Fox News recently. “But in the last week there has been a fundamental shift."
The optimism came as Mr Kavanaugh was set to be confirmed as a Supreme Court judge on Saturday after a majority of US senators declared their support.
It marks the end of a bruising confirmation process that has seen Mr Kavanaugh face accusations from three women of sexual misconduct – claims he categorically denies.
Securing two judges on America’s highest court, which hands conservatives a clear majority on the bench, would be a huge achievement for Mr Trump after just two years in office.
It would help convince evangelical supporters and moderate Republicans that they were correct to stand by his unorthodox candidacy rather than disown him before the 2016 presidential vote.
However the row has highlighted deep fault lines in American society in the wake of ‘MeToo’ movement against sexual harassment and underlined the partisan and polarised state of US politics.
The impact the confirmation battle, which has gripped the country ever since the first allegations surfaced last month, will have on November’s vote remains unclear.
All members of the House of Representatives and a third of US senators are up for re-election. Republicans hold slim majorities in both bodies but that could change.
If the Democrats take back control of the House, something which is seen as likely, they will be able to block Mr Trump’s legislation and launch a string of damaging investigations into his administration.
It is a longer shot for them to take back the Senate, given far more Democrats who already hold seats are up for re-election than Republicans, but nothing is being ruled out.
There are already signs of how the Supreme Court battle has energised the Republican base.
One Democrat fighting for re-election in a Trump-supporting state, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, said he would vote for Mr Kavanaugh. Another Democrat, Phil Bredesen, who is seeking to oust a sitting Republican in Tennessee, said he would have voted yes if was in the Senate.
Republican strategists said they had seen a surge in donations in recent weeks and are preparing to raise the spectre of Democrats pushing for Mr Kavanaugh’s impeachment to keep the energy going until polling day.
However Democrats too believe there could be political advantages from the bitter Supreme Court fight.
In 1991, Clarence Thomas, another Supreme Court nominee facing a sexual misconduct claim, was confirmed despite uproar. Then in 1992 more female candidates won Congress seats then ever before. It became known as the ‘Year of the Woman’.
Democrats were hoping to emulate that success as well as trigger a rush of donations – a “green wave” of US dollars to help deliver the “blue wave” in support come voting day on November 6.
One leading Republican strategist acknowledged Democrat voters were seething at a Trump presidency and ready to turn out en masse but said the row over Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination had helped his side.
“If the Democratic base gets any more excited they may have to seek medical attention,” Corry Bliss, head of right-leaning campaign group the Congressional Leadership Fund, told The Washington Post.
“In the last week things have undeniably improved in our polling. Republican intensity and excitement are through the roof. Now we need to keep the trend going for the next few weeks.”