by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Republicans are cautiously optimistic that the looming fight to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death will benefit President Trump’s reelection chances.
Trump is expected to nominate Ginsburg’s successor later this week, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has vowed to press forward with a vote despite furious Democratic opposition. Trump has publicly indicated that five women are under consideration.
“It’s hard to see how this doesn’t help Republicans politically. The Supreme Court fight reframes the election in a way that’s helpful for President Trump,” said GOP strategist Alex Conant. “Rather than focusing on his tweets and handling of COVID, many voters will now focus on the Supreme Court.”
A Pew poll released the month before Ginsburg’s death found that Supreme Court appointments were a top-three issue for registered voters nationally, just ahead of the coronavirus. Four years ago, the vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia was a winning issue for Trump.
Exit polls from 2016 showed that most voters who listed the Supreme Court as a top concern went for Trump. His vow to replace Scalia with a proven conservative, complete with a list of potential nominees to back it up, helped consolidate his support among key Republican voting blocs. This includes white evangelicals, who gave Trump 81% of their votes. The Brett Kavanaugh nomination fight helped red-state Republican Senate candidates in the 2018 midterm elections, expanding the GOP’s majority in the upper chamber.
Trump has once again released a list of prospective Supreme Court justices, though he has far greater credibility among social conservatives than when he first ran. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has said he will not tip his hand as to whom he would nominate to fill Ginsburg’s seat or any other vacancy that might arise if he is elected.