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‘Fat and Happy’ With a Conservative Court, Are Republicans Losing a Winning Issue?

  • October 27, 2020

Mr. Trump and Republicans in races across the country are amplifying those claims. Speaking at a campaign rally on Monday afternoon in Allentown, Pa., the president warned that his opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., would “pack the Supreme Court with radical justices who will shred your Second Amendment and pro-life and so many other things.”

He mentioned Justice Barrett’s nomination only in passing. And he did not bring up the issue of the Supreme Court — the issue many conservative voters see as his greatest achievement — at all during the final presidential debate last week.

Few other Republican candidates are mentioning the Barrett confirmation in their campaigns, instead going after Democrats with exaggerated claims about a plot by “far-left Democrats like Nancy Pelosi” to pack the courts, as an ad by the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Kansas put it. As speaker of the House, Ms. Pelosi has no official role in court confirmations, which the Senate handles. And Mr. Biden has not said he supports any plan to add judges to the courts, but has proposed studying the issue through a bipartisan commission if elected.

When Mr. Trump started running for president five years ago, the idea that he could be in a position to pick the next justice on the Supreme Court was enough to alarm many conservatives. They worried he didn’t understand how important the issue was, questioned the sincerity of his opposition to abortion and considered it a very real possibility that he would name his sister, a retired federal judge, to the bench.

But in the spring of 2016, as he was wrapping up the nomination, he released a list of noted conservative judges and lawyers he promised to stick to when nominating someone that helped give him credibility on the issue. And conservatives turned out, determined to prevent a Supreme Court shaped by Hillary Clinton that would perhaps forever foreclose overturning Roe v. Wade, which established a legal right to abortion.

The court as an issue helped Mr. Trump win 81 percent of the white evangelical vote. And his commitment to it throughout his first term — along with his willingness to talk about the issues so bluntly and declare his desire to see Roe undone, which Republicans typically did not say even if they believed it privately — has forged a seemingly unbreakable bond with social conservatives.

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