Let me humbly offer my view on what has happened here on Kavanaugh. It’s only a theory but I am pretty convinced of it.
The GOP went for a pretty extreme originalist in picking Kavanaugh (see the positioning below). Unlike Gorsuch, he is far from unimpeachable as a jurist; unlike Amy Barrett, his backstory is not popular. He is a party hack who’s real scandal is not this sexual one but rather his role in the Bush administration in 2003, for which any half competent opposition could have hung him out to dry. Therefore, he was not an easy win for the GOP.
Why then did they do this? I think because they saw the midterms coming and decided on a gamble of enormous proportions: put up a controversial figure and dare the Democrats to vote him down. If he somehow got through, they got their man in (and not just a conservative judge like Gorsuch, but an actual partisan); if he failed or the process was dragged out, it would be the catalyst needed for their midterm turnout which was threatening to be flat.
What they did not count on was the ensuing sexual scandal, which whilst allowing the Democrats to get all excited was not obviously a partisan consolidating issue. The Democrats had a real chance to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination without suffering a backlash. However, the other thing the GOP did not factor in was the total incompetence of the Democrats in taking this easy path rather than the correct path to blocking him.
The Democrats have consequently managed a thing of genius – treading the only narrow, delicate path they could to somehow come out of the Kavanaugh debacle even worse than the Republicans (various recent polls show a closing of the generic congressional voting polls and in Trump’s own approvals, despite the fact that Trump has almost nothing to do with any of this). The GOP had to make another gamble in the end: namely that they, even as a stupid party, were still not the stupidest party in the room. The Democrats managed that honour, and the Republicans’ last gasp gamble seems to have worked.
Extraordinary from all sides.