Supreme Court nomination hearings are ostensibly one of the few moments when senators set aside politics and review a president's pick for one of the most consequential jobs in the land on the merits.
But that is so not the case here. The Senate's hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh start Tuesday in a uniquely hyperpartisan political moment, just two months before congressional elections and two years before another big election for president.
In other words, it's a safe assumption that most everyone in that room will be driven by their own political narratives. Aides on both sides of the aisle say to expect fireworks.
So here's a breakdown of some of the big players and their motives to help observers understand what to expect in the hearings.
The most obvious player, who perhaps has the most obvious motive, is Kavanaugh. He wants the job, and he is fully aware that nearly half the room doesn't want him to get it. He's also possibly aware of how thin is the ice he stands on.
If all Senate Democrats vote against him, Republicans can afford only one or two "no" votes, depending on when the vote happens and when John McCain's replacement arrives in the Senate. Kavanaugh knows he has no room for error.
Expect that caution to manifest in an avoidance of any questions about how he would decide certain cases, especially on such hot-button issues like abortion, terrorism and presidential powers. Justice Neil Gorsuch perfected this say-nothing strategy in his hearings last year, when he wouldn't even give his opinion on the Second Amendment, saying it would be improper for him to come to a case with a publicly stated predetermined opinion.
Potential 2020 candidates: Get noticed
Perhaps no committee is as chock-full of rumored Democratic presidential candidates as the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., are all potential 2020 candidates who will have a moment in the spotlight.
There are any number of ways these senators can leverage this moment, but a big one will be by trying to pin Kavanaugh on his views about presidential powers as they pertain to President Donald Trump. Once downright angry about President Bill Clinton's misdoings, Kavanaugh has since written that criminal investigations of sitting presidents aren't in the public interest.
These Democrats can juxtapose any sympathy Kavanaugh might express for Trump with just how little of it they themselves feel for him. Given that there are factions of the Democratic base that want the president impeached, that might be a smart strategy.
The never-Trump Republicans: Decide how much they want to needle the president
There are two to four Republicans on the committee who could be classified as antagonists to Trump to some degree. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina has introduced a bill to stop Trump from firing special counsel Robert Mueller. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska is a reliable critic when Trump steps outside GOP orthodoxy. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is an enemy turned golf buddy of Trump who is not afraid to criticize the president on occasion.
But it's Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona who may have the most to get off his chest, points out Cornell law professor and constitutional expert Josh Chafetz. The hearings come a little more than a week after the death of McCain, Flake's friend and colleague, and Trump showed no interest in honoring McCain as the rest of Washington saw fit.
While other GOP senators have derided Trump's behavior toward McCain's death as "disturbing," Flake has been publicly quiet about what must irritate him. How much does he want to use this hearing to express his displeasure with the president and honor his late friend? Will any other Republican senators use this hearing to send an indirect message to Trump?
Democratic leaders: Set the stage for good midterms
Senate Democratic leaders could ditch any real effort to keep Kavanaugh off the court and instead focus on rallying their base by talking about future nomination battles. Kavanaugh will maintain the court's current 5-to-4 conservative lean, but another Supreme Court opening during Trump's presidency could cement a strong conservative majority on the court for a generation.
If you hear Democrats talk about future Supreme Court vacancies during the Kavanaugh hearings, what you're really hearing is: Help Senate Democrats get the majority in 2018 to avoid this doomsday scenario.
The clock: Run it out, or speed it up?
Republicans want Kavanaugh on the court as soon as possible — like within the next month. That would allow them to campaign for November's elections on the fact that they put not one but two conservative Supreme Court justices on the bench.
Democrats don't mind if the Kavanaugh confirmation process takes a while. They've already accused Republicans of moving too quickly. These hearings are starting despite the fact that the federal agency in charge of preserving and gathering Kavanaugh's documents said it won't be able to give all of the requested ones to the Senate until the end of October.
Former President George W. Bush's legal team is helping compile the documents they have to speed up the process, and given that Kavanaugh worked for Bush, Democrats have cried foul. "What are they hiding?" asked Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York of the Kavanaugh document battle.
The longer this process takes, the less time Democrats' most vulnerable senators have to be in the spotlight over how they'll vote. That's good news for Sens. Joe Manchin, W.Va., Heidi Heitkamp, N.D., and Joe Donnelly, Ind., who are all undecided and are all running for re-election in states that Trump won by a lot in 2016.