SCOTUS Showdown: Red State Democrats Catch Durbin's Resistance Fever At Own Peril

Posted: Jul 09, 2018 2:35 PM

As Leah mentioned earlier, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin indicated on Meet the Press yesterday that his Democratic colleagues standing for re-election in red states should look beyond "the next election" and oppose President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, who will be announced imminently.  This pressure, coming from Chuck Schumer's top deputy, reveals the extent to which the Democrats' left-wing base will demand total resistance in the upcoming confirmation battle.  It also thrusts vulnerable incumbents into an untenable position: Vote against the president's pick, and alienate their home electorates (a large majority of voters want to see a confirmation vote before the midterms, so it would follow that support for Trump's nominee will be quite high in states he carried by double digits) -- or vote yes, and cross leadership while incurring the wrath of the enraged party faithful:

"I will tell you, the men and women that I work with on the Democratic side really take this seriously. They understand it's a historic decision. It's about more than the next election. It's about what country the United States of America is going to chart as its course in the future on this Supreme Court. I think each and every one of them take that seriously, that personally. It goes beyond the next election.”

Keep in mind that three Senate Democrats approved Justice Gorsuch, votes that were cast a safe distance away from the midterms.  The next confirmation moment could very well arrive in the weeks immediately preceding the November elections, when fear of opposing Trump on a massively important vote will be all the more acute.  If and when Trump selects a qualified nominee, would Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelley and Heidi Heitkamp really want to join a far-left blockade -- especially if it's doomed to fail?  If all 50 (or potentially 51) Republicans hold together, as they did on triggering the Reid Rule and confirming Gorsuch, they don't need a single Democratic vote.  Why would any endangered Democrat from a Trump-dominated state want to risk inflaming opposition back home by toeing the Chuck Schumer line in a fight they'd lose anyway?  

The theory is that the Left could pressure two GOP Senators (almost certainly Collins and Murkowski) into breaking ranks, but both moderates have been solid 'yes' votes on judicial nominees from Republican presidents.  Wavering Democrats would be wise to recall that Durbin helped lead the charge on every foolish escalation -- from unprecedented obstruction, to Reid's nuclear option, to the strategically and substantively moronic Gorsuch filibuster -- that have rendered their party almost entirely impotent in today's fight.  Why would they trust their own potential fortunes to his impaired judgment?  Ten Senate Democrats who are up in November represent Trump-won states, half of which went by double digits (WV by 42 points, ND by 36, MT by 20, IN by 19, and MO by 19).  One of those ten is Pennsylvania's Bob Casey, who's supposedly pro-life, yet is predictably and preemptively joining the Resistance:

Casey previously voted to confirm half of the Trump's 'final four' list (Kethledge and Hardiman).  Florida's Bill Nelson has already flip-flopped to Schumer's stance.  Doug Jones, the beneficiary of Alabama's Republican implosion, says he could vote either way.  Other red state Democrats are keeping their options open, perhaps waiting to see how the dynamics play out over the coming weeks.  The organized Left will undoubtedly employ a full court press against whomever Trump announces (though Hardiman may have an easier road forward), but they won't be the only ones engaged in specifically-tailored pressure campaigns:

JUDICIAL CRISIS NETWORK is launching a $1.4 million ad buy on national cable, digital and in Alabama, Indiana, North Dakota and West Virginia with an introductory bio spot about the SCOTUS nominee. The group is running the ads for one week and has reserved another four weeks of air time nationally and in the four states.

I'll leave you with JCN's Gorsuch bio ad, and an example of the group's targeted ad blitz from last year's SCOTUS showdown:

UPDATE - Several Trump state GOP Senate challengers are already on offense over this issue, including in West Virginia and Missouri

UPDATE II - Last time around, this role was filled by former Senator Kelly Ayotte.  This time, it will be...