Wednesday January 20th, 2021 11:56AM

GOP, Dems hope Supreme Court fight bolsters Senate prospects

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — For Republicans, the nomination fight over Amy Coney Barrett is a chance to seal conservative control of the Supreme Court for decades. For some GOP senators, it's also a lifeline they hope will preserve their political careers and their party's control of the chamber in November's elections.

The battle over President Donald Trump's pick is letting Senate Republicans facing tough reelections highlight issues like abortion and link themselves to a conservative, religious woman whose confirmation seems certain. Most importantly, they hope it will change the subject from Trump and his failure to control the coronavirus pandemic, which threaten to make Election Day miserable for the GOP.

But even some Republicans privately doubt the court battle will distract voters enough to make a difference. And Democrats are appealing to voters too, saying the GOP-led Senate is ignoring greater needs to quickly cement a 6-3 conservative court majority, threatening Democratic priorities like former President Barack Obama's health care law and the right to abortion.

“The Senate has a big job to do right now, and that's fighting the virus and getting people the relief they need,” said Democratic consultant Rodd McLeod, citing long-stalled economic relief legislation. “Instead, they're rushing through this nomination.”

There are competitive races for around a dozen GOP-held seats as the party defends its 53-47 Senate majority in next month’s elections. About half of them are in states like Montana and Kansas where Trump won easily in 2016 and embracing Barrett should win broad approval. But the rest are in battleground states like Arizona, Georgia, Iowa and Maine, where backing her is riskier.

Either way, both sides are using the Supreme Court battle in fundraising appeals and other ways that underscore its political potency.

From the day after the September death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — whose vacancy Barrett will fill — through this Wednesday, each party has spent around $4 million on broadcast TV commercials highlighting the nomination fight, according to Kantar/CMAG, the ad-tracking firm. Democrats have advertised in seven Senate races and Republicans in eight. All but one, Sen. Doug Jones' uphill effort to survive in GOP-dominated Alabama, are contests where Republicans are defending seats.

In a common GOP theme, a spot by Senate candidate Rep. Roger Marshall of Kansas says Democratic challenger Barbara Bollier would be “just another liberal rubber stamp” for judges favored by Democratic leaders.

The liberal group Demand Justice is running its own ad against incumbent GOP senators in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina, hitting them for ignoring the pandemic while “rushing to play politics with the court."

Four GOP senators in competitive campaigns are on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which wrapped up hearings Thursday on Barrett's nomination. All four — John Cornyn of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Thom Tillis of North Carolina — used the sessions to praise Barrett and flash opposition to abortion or champion other hot-button conservative favorites.

That didn't escape the notice of Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., her party's vice presidential nominee and a Judiciary Committee member. She recited the number of people from those states who she said would lose coverage if the justices strike down the health care law. The court is scheduled to hear arguments in a GOP-backed case seeking to dismantle the statute the week after the election.

No GOP senator stood to potentially benefit more than Graham, the Judiciary chairman.

Seeking his fourth term from a state where Trump remains popular, Graham faces a tossup contest against Democrat Jaime Harrison, who raised a record $57 million in this year's third quarter. Chairing the televised hearings gave Graham four days to boast about golfing with Trump, demonstrate how GOP Senate control means more conservative judges and to gesture to women voters, many of whom have fled the party because of Trump.

Graham said Barrett's confirmation will pierce “a reinforced concrete barrier around conservative women." Barrett, 48, has previously expressed opposition to abortion but during the hearings asserted that as a justice she'd set aside her personal views.

So far, public opinion polls offer little evidence that supporting Barrett is a clear winner.

A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, conducted mostly before nomination hearings began, showed Americans roughly evenly divided among favoring her confirmation, opposing it and being uncertain. In a recent survey by The Washington Post and ABC News, a slight majority of registered voters said they’d prefer letting the next elected president fill the seat.

“It's motivating both parties' bases for sure," said Republican pollster Robert Blizzard. “It's not changing the narrative or the trajectory of the races. But that's today," he said, citing possible unforeseen events by Election Day.

So far, Democratic senators and outside groups opposing Barrett have used measured tones against her.

That contrasts with the 2018 confirmation fight over Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of a decades-old sexual assault that he denied. Republicans turned raucous public protests into a weapon for that fall's elections, accusing Democrats of using “mobs” to oppose him.

This week, no public witnesses were allowed in the hearing room because of COVID-19 restrictions. “It's not a strategic choice, it's a fact of the times,” said Brian Fallon, who heads the progressive Demand Justice.

Ironically, Democrats have spent most of their money on Supreme Court-themed ads against Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. She and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who's not facing reelection, are the only two Republicans expected to oppose Barrett, but Democrats think the issue helps emphasize Collins' support for the divisive president.

One spot by Democratic challenger Sara Gideon pictures Collins with Kavanaugh. Collins' decisive vote for him has been a major issue in her campaign. “Susan Collins is an enabler," the announcer says.

Collins has said she'll oppose Barrett because Republicans were rushing the vote too close to the presidential election. When a vacancy occurred in February 2016, the GOP refused to consider Obama's nominee, claiming that year's election was too soon.


AP writer Emily Swanson contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Online Supreme Court News, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News, General Senate Election News, AP Business
© Copyright 2021
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Impatient Democrats want Biden to do more in Texas
Democrats in Texas are pressing Joe Biden to make a harder run at Texas with less than three weeks until Election Day
12:21PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Thai police crack down on protesters; PM refuses to resign
Riot police in Thailand have cracked down on thousands of student-led protesters who rallied Friday in the capital in defiance of a strict state of emergency, while the prime minister rejected calls for his resignation
12:04PM ( 24 minutes ago )
GOP, Dems hope Supreme Court fight bolsters Senate prospects
Senate Democrats and Republicans both think the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation battle will help them in this fall's elections
12:00PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Taliban to suspend assault after US pledges to halt strikes
The Taliban say they agreed to suspend attacks in southern Afghanistan that displaced thousands this week, but only after the U.S. promised to halt airstrikes in support of Afghan forces in the latest fighting in Helmand province
11:23AM ( 1 hour ago )
Twitter changes hacked content rules after Biden story furor
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says the company was wrong to block weblinks to an unverified political story, a move that had prompted cries of censorship from the right
11:14AM ( 1 hour ago )
UK says EU trade talks 'over' but bloc sees room for a deal
The British government says trade talks with the European Union are effectively over and the country must prepare for a no-deal break with the bloc, despite EU leaders declaring that negotiations will continue next week
11:06AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Trump out-raised, outgunned by Biden in final stretch
President Donald Trump was out-raised by Democrat Joe Biden in September and is being outgunned financially by his rival with just weeks to go until Election Day
10:16AM ( 2 hours ago )
Pfizer: Mid-November earliest it can seek virus vaccine OK
Pfizer CEO says it can't seek emergency authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine before the third week of November — and that's if everything goes well
10:09AM ( 2 hours ago )
Virus at 'turning point' in Europe, hitting at-risk groups
Doctors are warning that Europe is at a turning point as the coronavirus surges back across the continent, including among vulnerable people, and governments try to impose restrictions without locking whole economies down
9:38AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online National News
UK says EU trade talks 'over' after EU says they'll continue
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman says talks on a trade deal with the European Union are effectively “over,” despite the EU’s insistence they will continue next week
9:31AM ( 2 hours ago )
UK, EU each demand the other give way to strike trade deal
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the U.K. must prepare for a no-deal break with the European Union unless there is a “fundamental” change of position from the bloc
8:22AM ( 4 hours ago )
EU leader: We want trade deal with UK but not at any price
Refusing to bow to U_K_ insistence that the European Union must make “fundamental” changes, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen says the EU still wants a Brexit trade deal “but not at any price.”
7:52AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
The Latest: Trump raises $247.8M in Sept., far behind Biden
President Donald Trump’s campaign and Republicans raised $247.8 million in September — better than the month before, but still lagging far behind his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who raised $383 million over the same stretch
11:15PM ( 13 hours ago )
The Latest: Campaign says Trump defeated town hall moderator
A spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s campaign is declaring that the president “defeated” town hall moderator, Savannah Guthrie, and derided the NBC “Today” host as a “surrogate” for Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign
10:10PM ( 14 hours ago )
The Latest: Biden: Trump not 'chastened' by racial injustice
Democrat Joe Biden says President Donald Trump has not been “chastened” by the claims of racial injustice that have marked his presidency
9:50PM ( 14 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Trump, Biden go at it -- from a distance -- in town halls
President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden squared off, in a way, Thursday night, their scuttled second debate replaced by dueling televised town halls
10:56PM ( 13 hours ago )
With a hug, Feinstein draws liberal critics at court hearing
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is coming under criticism for her handling of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings
7:24PM ( 17 hours ago )
Harris suspends travel after staffer tests COVID-19 positive
Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris is suspending in-person events until Monday after two people associated with the campaign tested positive for coronavirus
2:41PM ( 21 hours ago )
AP Online Supreme Court News
Guinea's president, 82, seeks to prolong rule in Sunday vote
Guinean President Alpha Conde, 82, is seeking a third term in office Sunday, insisting his attempt to prolong his rule does not make him a dictator
5:23AM ( 7 hours ago )
Global shares mixed amid 2nd wave virus, election fears
Global shares are mixed as investors weigh concerns about the U.S. presidential election and an economic stimulus package, plus flaring outbreaks of coronavirus
5:03AM ( 7 hours ago )
Asian shares mixed amid 2nd wave coronavirus, election fears
Asian shares are mixed as investors weigh concerns about the U.S. presidential election and an economic stimulus package, on top of flaring outbreaks of coronavirus
2:08AM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Elections
Biden campaign flips COVID-19 threat into new Trump contrast
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign turned its first known coronavirus scare into another contrast with President Donald Trump
7:35PM ( 16 hours ago )
GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, wife finance anti-Biden group
Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson and his wife have given $75 million into a new super PAC that is attacking Democratic nominee Joe Biden
7:12PM ( 17 hours ago )
The Latest: Pence rallies Hispanic voters in Florida
Vice President Mike Pence is rallying Hispanic voters in Florida by highlighting President Donald Trump’s record opposing socialist leaders across Latin America
5:56PM ( 18 hours ago )
General Election News
Scramble to get people counted as 2020 census winds down
Census advocates across the nation have been making last-ditch efforts to get as many households to answer the 2020 census
3:49PM ( 20 hours ago )
The Latest: Trump swipes at Fauci over mask guidance
President Donald Trump is taking some of his most overt swipes yet at Dr. Anthony Fauci while campaigning in North Carolina
3:04PM ( 21 hours ago )
The Latest: Trump works Barron's virus diagnosis into speech
President Donald Trump has added new material to his campaign rally speech: his teenage son Barron’s recent coronavirus infection
2:19PM ( 22 hours ago )
General Presidential Election News
Georgia Sen. Loeffler and GOP candidate Greene set event
U.S. Sen Kelly Loeffler will be hitting the campaign trail again Thursday with fellow Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene
5:22PM ( 1 day ago )
McConnell, McGrath spar over federal response to coronavirus
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Amy McGrath have sparred over the federal response to the coronavirus crisis in a hard-hitting televised debate
9:40PM ( 3 days ago )
The Latest: Senator wants Barrett recusal in election cases
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal says Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett must recuse herself from any cases involving President Donald Trump and the outcome of the Nov. 3 election
11:54AM ( 4 days ago )
General Senate Election News
Virus hits beach resort, as pandemic surges in Argentina
Hundreds of Argentine flags dotted the sand of a beach at the Mar del Plata resort, a poignant memorial to the victims of the novel coronavirus in one of this South American country’s virus hotspots
10:52AM ( 1 hour ago )
Sen. Josh Hawley writing book: 'The Tyranny of Big Tech.'
Sen. Josh Hawley is working on a book about one of the Missouri Republican’s ongoing targets
9:49AM ( 2 hours ago )
UK says Instagram to crack down on hidden influencer ads
British regulators said Friday that Instagram will clamp down on “hidden advertising” by social media influencers
9:08AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
Impatient Democrats want Biden to do more in Texas
Democrats in Texas are pressing Joe Biden to make a harder run at Texas with less than three weeks until Election Day
12:21PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Thai police crack down on protesters; PM refuses to resign
Riot police in Thailand have cracked down on thousands of student-led protesters who rallied Friday in the capital in defiance of a strict state of emergency, while the prime minister rejected calls for his resignation
12:04PM ( 25 minutes ago )
US stocks head higher at the end of another bumpy week
Stocks are rising broadly on Wall Street, putting the market on track to end a choppy week of trading slightly higher
11:52AM ( 37 minutes ago )
Colts' retests for COVID-19 come back as negative
The Indianapolis Colts closed their practice facility Friday after “several individuals” tested positive for COVID-19, then the retests came back negative
11:41AM ( 48 minutes ago )
Trump administration denies California relief for 6 fires
President Donald Trump’s administration has rejected California’s request for disaster relief funds aimed at cleaning up the damage from six recent wildfires
11:40AM ( 49 minutes ago )