But in a flash, Ginsburg’s death on Friday added new weight to the election, with the potential that Trump or his Democratic challenger Joe Biden could choose a successor who could decide abortion access, environmental regulations and the power of the presidency for a generation. .
With early voting underway in five states and Election Day just over six weeks away, Democrats and Republicans broadly united on Friday in praising Ginsburg as a leading legal thinker and advocate for the womens rights. But strategists from both parties have also used the moment to find an advantage.
Faced with the prospect of losing both the White House and the Senate, some Republicans viewed the Supreme Court vacancy as one of the few remaining avenues for Trump to galvanize supporters beyond his most loyal core of supporters. , especially the suburban women who dropped out of the GOP recently. years.
“It’s hard to see how that doesn’t help Trump politically,” said Alex Conant, a seasoned Republican strategist. “Biden wants this election to be a referendum on Trump. Now it will be a referendum on whoever he appoints to the Supreme Court. ”
Several Republicans close to the White House believe Trump will likely nominate a woman, who could somehow serve as a counterweight to Biden’s choice of Vice President Kamala Harris, who would be the first woman to serve as vice president.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Has pledged to quickly bring everyone Trump appoints to a vote. But he faces a potential division within his own ranks, especially from the senses. Mitt Romney from Utah, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Susan Collins from Maine and Cory Gardner from Colorado. Collins and Gardner are in a particularly close race for re-election this fall.
This fuels Democrats’ optimism that the vacancy could convey the importance of the election to their base.
“The implications for Senate races could be profound,” Democratic strategist Bill Burton said.
“The presidential race will see an immediate turnaround because activists on both sides will once again be energized,” he continued. “The lingering question will be whether huge protests around the Capitol and the country will ignite such vigorous energy as to lead to terrible clashes. ”
McConnell, in a note to his GOP colleagues on Friday night, urged them to “keep their powder dry” and not rush to declare a position on whether a Trump candidate should get a vote this year. “Now is not the time to prematurely love yourself in a position you might regret later,” he said.
Biden, who has already pledged to appoint the first black woman to the Supreme Court, told reporters Friday night that “voters should choose the president and the president should choose which justice to consider.”
Democrats are furious at McConnell’s promise to move forward, especially after he barred President Barack Obama from appointing a judge to replace Antonin Scalia nine months before the 2016 election. The move cast a long political shadow. prompting Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who launched a heated candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, to make the expansion of the Supreme Court a centerpiece of his campaign. Biden rejected the idea.
Some Democrats privately admit that the Supreme Court vacancy could distract attention from the virus, which has been a central part of Biden’s campaign.
Trump took an unprecedented step in 2016 when he released a Supreme Court pick list ahead of his election, a move that has been credited with unifying skeptical Conservative voters to unite behind him. Republicans also believe the high-profile debate over Trump’s latest Supreme Court choice Brett Kavanaugh helped the GOP retain the Senate midway through 2018, when the party lost control of the House.
The president, seeking to generate the same kind of energy that surrounded his 2016 candidacy, released another list of potential Supreme Court candidates last week.
But some Democrats said the political environment was already overheated, with partisan divisions over everything from wearing a mask to stem the pandemic to tackling climate change. Ginsburg’s death, they say, may not change that.
“It’s bad enough out there,” said Megan Jones, a Democratic strategist who worked for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “I don’t know how this doesn’t turn into a fight of epic proportions. ”
Associated Press editors Andrew Taylor in Washington, Michelle Price in Las Vegas, Nicholas Riccardi in Denver, and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.