WASHINGTON ― The fate of President Donald Trump’s upcoming Supreme Court nominee once again rests with vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election this fall.
While activists and progressive groups are targeting moderate Republican senators who support abortion rights like Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, urging them to reject any Trump nominee who is hostile to Roe v. Wade, a handful of Democrats will be key in deciding whether the president gets his pick confirmed to the high court, because of the razor-thin partisan divide in the Senate.
Even if Republicans lose one or two votes, they will likely still be able to confirm the nominee — who is expected to be announced Monday evening — with the support of several Democrats up for re-election in November in states where Trump is overwhelmingly popular.
“Red-state Democrats are going to have a very hard decision, and I hope that every Republican will rally behind these picks because they’re all outstanding,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said over the weekend on “Fox News Sunday.”
Three Senate Democrats voted to confirm Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, in April 2017: Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Republicans will be looking to win their votes once more after a confirmation hearing that is expected to take place before the midterm elections.
Two other vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election this fall ― Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana ― did not support Gorsuch’s nomination. But they, too, are facing pressure to back Trump’s second high court pick. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, the GOP nominee challenging McCaskill this fall, released a campaign ad this week targeting her over the coming Supreme Court fight.
As soon as Trump announces his Supreme Court pick, Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative political advocacy organization, says it will start airing ads in Alabama, Indiana, North Dakota and West Virginia promoting the nomination. The ads, costing a total of $1.4 million to run, will feature biographical information about the nominee and will be aimed at red state Democrats, including newly elected Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama.
The White House has assembled a team to handle communications, strategy and messaging coordination to defend and push the nomination through on Capitol Hill. Trump is expected to pressure recalcitrant Senate Democrats into supporting his nominee by holding rallies in their states.
His Supreme Court shortlist is said to include conservative Appeals Court Judges Amy Coney Barrett, Thomas Hardiman, Brett Kavanaugh and Raymond Kethledge. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) told the president over the weekend that Hardiman and Kethledge would face the fewest obstacles to confirmation. Barrett is popular with social conservatives, but her prospects for being nominated to the post are fading, according to The Wall Street Journal.
One Democrat up for re-election in a state Trump won in the 2016 election has already announced that he will oppose the Supreme Court pick ― regardless of the president’s choice. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who opposes abortion, announced on Monday he cannot support a process that involved Trump’s picking from a list of 25 candidates selected by conservatives and big business.
“I will oppose the nomination the President will make tonight because it represents a corrupt bargain with the far Right, big corporations, and Washington special interests,” Casey said in a statement. “I was not elected to genuflect to the hard right, who are funded by corporate America.”