Look what Marsha Blackburn made Taylor Swift do

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October 10, 2018, 6:11pm

More women than ever are running for political office. Sign up for our newsletter following them.

The political fallout over now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court will last for years, and female senators are already shouldering the bulk of it. The scandal has also left women on both sides of the debatespitting mad — or demoralized. “Bottom line, civic duty or no, it’s just not worth it,” said celebrated journalist Sally Quinn. Then-Sen. John Tower tried to rape her in the 1960s, Quinn said, but she didn’t tell the FBI when Tower was nominated for a Pentagon job two decades later. “I could have been Anita Hill,” she said, “but I didn’t want to. I didn’t want it to ruin my life.”

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If male Republicans want to staunch the flood of women leaving the GOP— including some white evangelical women, a once-surefire conservative voting bloc — they should probably tread lightly when talking about the #MeToo movement. Remember what happened to Texas Republican gubernatorial nominee Clayton Williams, who infamously joked that rape is like bad weather? (“If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.”) He lost to Ann Richards.

Oh, and look what Marsha Blackburn made Taylor Swift do: endorse a politician.

By the way, if you’re in New York at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, stop by the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center — the VICE News team and I will be talking about She’s Running.

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins pinned a $3.6 million target on her back by casting her swing vote in favor of Kavanaugh. A crowdfunding campaign plans to give that much to her 2020 opponent. (Both Sara Gideon, the Democratic speaker of Maine's House of Representatives, and Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, suggested they’re afterCollins’ seat.) But Collins has some big backers too: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called keeping Collins in office “my top priority.”

The Alaska GOP is weighing whether to take action against Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who broke with Republicans by moving to halt Kavanaugh’s nomination. The state party could withdraw its support of Murkowski, though she doesn’t necessarily need the help. In 2010, she became the first senatorin more than 50 years to win via write-in campaign.

Well, alright: This happened.

North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp might’ve signed her political career’s death warrant by voting against Kavanaugh. Heitkamp, a Democrat running in a state Donald Trump won, was already polling an average of about nine points behind Republican Kevin Cramer, and her vote likely won’t help. This week, Cramer called #MeToo “this movement toward victimization.” Heitkamp’s response: “Did he really say that?”

FYI: Heitkamp still isn’t giving up her Senate seat without a fight, as her latest, meta TV ad made clear.

Elizabeth Warren is already spending like a presidential hopeful. The Massachusetts Democratic senator recently announced that she’d take a “hard look” at 2020, but as of mid-September, she’d spent at least $2.4 million on cross-country digital advertising, the Boston Globe reported. Only Beto O’Rourke — who’s running a highly competitive race for Ted Cruz’s Texas Senate seat — and Trump have spent more.

FYI: If you’re confused about why the Democratic Party doesn’t seem that excited about Warren’s all-but-inevitable presidential run, you’re not alone.

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Women in highly watched races are still announcing mind-boggling fundraising hauls.

Register to vote: Deadlines are up in several states this week, so take two minutes and do it.

A Kansas Republican official slammed congressional candidate Sharice Davids on social media. “Your radical socialist kickboxing lesbian Indian will be sent back packing to the reservation,” the official wrote in a Facebook message, complete with dozens of exclamation marks, the Kansas City Star reported. If Davids wins the Republican-held 3rd District, she’d become the first openly gay Kansas lawmaker in Congress and one of its first Native American women. Local Republicans denounced the message, which was reportedly written by precinct committeeman Michael Kalny. When the Kansas City Star asked Kalny for comment, he said he needed to talk to his lawyer.

Tennessee voter Taylor Swift took an axe to her reputation for political apathy Sunday, when she revealed she won’t go red for Republican Senate candidate Rep. Marsha Blackburn. “Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me,” Swift wrote on Instagram, before proclaiming her support for Blackburn’s opponent, Democrat Phil Bredesen. But Blackburn might be able to shake it off: She recently surged to an 8-point lead over Bredesen, her largest since the state’s August primary.

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FYI: Southern states like Tennessee might be a Republican stronghold, but black women are a Democratic Party bedrock — and now, they’re trying to take the South back.

Women’s support for Democrats is helping tint 69 battleground House districts blue, a new poll from the Washington Post and the Schar School at George Mason University found. Women in those districts favor Democratic candidates 54 percent to 40 percent. Women leaning liberal isn’t some grand revelation — they’ve supported the Democratic Party for decades. But Republican women are becoming an endangered species. In 1994, 31 percent of women said they fully identified as Republicans; as of 2017, just 25 percent said the same. So if you see stories about how many Republican women support [insert issue here], keep in mind that in raw numbers, those women represent an ever-shrinking slice of the electorate.

Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, urges members of the Assembly to reject the state budget plan up for a vote, Thursday, June 14, 2018, in Sacramento, California. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

“If lawmakers, who are making these laws for everyone else, aren’t following these same laws, then I think it stands to reason that the rest of the country is gonna look at it and say, ‘Well, if they don’t have to follow these laws, then neither do we.’”

— California state Assemblymember Melissa Melendez, on why it’s important to protect legislative staffers who blow the whistle on sexual misconduct.

Melendez, a Republican up for re-election this year, has introduced a bill to shield such staffers every year since 2014. It finally passed this year, after the Harvey Weinstein scandal exploded Hollywood and more than 140 women signed a letter denouncing a culture of sexual harassment in the state Capitol.

At least 30 state lawmakers have been publicly involved in sexual misconduct scandals since 2017, I reported this week. Sixteen have gone on to win their primaries. That number may sound high, but it could actually be a sign that voters are taking sexual misconduct allegations more seriously this year. Read more here.

Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh’s testimony transfixed the nation late last month. So we sat down with people across the country, and the political spectrum, to watch it.

We also asked women to call in and tell us what they wish Kavanaugh had said during his hearing. Some callers’ suggestions:

  • “Yes, I made some bad choices as a young man.”

  • “I don’t remember this happening. I am not that same person.”

  • “I don’t deserve to have this much power. Nobody like me deserves to have this much power.”

Protesters took over the Capitol last week in an unprecedented effort to catch senators and sway their votes on Kavanaugh. We followed one full-time, progressive activist as she stalked the literal halls of power.

At Trump’s rally for Mississippi Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, conservative women weren’t so sold on Kavanaugh’s guilt. FYI: Hyde-Smith was appointed to be the first woman to represent Mississippi in Congress just a few months ago, but she’s already runninglike an incumbent.

If you plan to be in Los Angeles on Oct. 21, buy a ticket to Politicon, a nonpartisan political convention featuring everybody from Michael Avenatti to Chris Christie. The VICE News team (including me) will screen an episode from VICE News Tonight on HBO's "She's Running," which follows Katie Hill's campaign for California's 25th Congressional District. We’ll also take questions about the process and the year ahead for women candidates

That’s all for this week, but if you want to say hi — or send any tips — email me here. You can also find me on Twitter at @carter_sherman. Thanks to Leslie Xia for the design.

Cover image: Taylor Swift performs on stage during the Taylor Swift reputation Stadium Tour at Hard Rock Stadium on August 18, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Alberto E. Tamargo/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)