A bruising Senate confirmation fight over President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court choice may seal the fates of several incumbent senators in the November election, though it has yet to drastically alter the odds for which party will control the chamber.
Trump’s decision to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the high court with just weeks to
go before Election Day has mostly hardened existing partisan lines, which favour Democrats gaining a slim Senate majority on November 3.
Jessica Taylor, Senate editor of the Cook Political Report, and other analysts said that while views could shift once confirmation hearings get under way, initial signs show the basic shape of the contest for Senate control hasn’t changed.
“This is still a map where Republicans remain almost entirely on defense, and Democrats have expanded their offensive opportunities,” she said. At least three of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents may see their narrow chances of re-election further diminished.
Republicans Susan Collins in Maine and Cory Gardner in Colorado were already running behind their challengers in states Democrat Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and where Democrat Joe Biden has a significant lead. They now face the prospect of a highly motivated Democratic base turning out to vote.
In Alabama, Democrat Doug Jones was already struggling in one of the most Republican states in the country, and his opposition to proceeding with Barrett’s confirmation could limit his crossover appeal.
For a handful of Republican senators in tight races in Republican-leaning states, a Supreme Court fight could galvanise Trump’s voters behind them. That includes Martha McSally in Arizona, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Steve Daines in Montana and Lindsey Graham in South Carolina. Democrats are seeking to counter that by focussing the fight on the future of Obamacare, and they’ve reported tens of millions in donations since Ginsburg’s death.
Democrats quickly attacked Graham — who as chair of the Judiciary Committee will lead hearings on Barrett’s nomination — as hypocritical on the court vacancy.
After Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had refused to consider then-President Barack Obama’s nomination to fill a vacant seat in the 2016 election year, Graham on multiple occasions said he would wait
until after the election to consider a Supreme Court pick in the final year of Trump’s term. But after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, he reversed himself and backed a lightning-strike confirmation.
Graham’s switch brought a flood of donations to his already well-funded challenger, Jaime Harrison, who was tied with Graham in two recent polls taken before and after Ginsburg’s passing.
Harrison had already raised $14 million in the second quarter, against $8.4 million for Graham.
South Carolina may be in play, but it’s still a tough climb for Biden and the Democrats.