Thursday, September 24, 2020

October Surprise Early – KOA Radio

In a KOA drive-time interview with April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz, we discussed the political impact of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I offered it as the expected October surprise early – September 18.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
delivers remarks at the Georgetown Law Center,
Sept. 12, 2019 | Tom Brenner/Getty Images

The issue will be high profile over the next six weeks. It is a very polarizing, very partisan and focused on President Trump. It will play well with his base, especially his evangelical voters, but it could be a problem with independent voters, especially women. He also would like it to change the subject from COVID-19 and 200,000 deaths.

It starts as a difficult issue for Cory Gardner because he must explain his shift in position from February 2016 when he said that the replacement Supreme Court nominees should be chosen by the next president. At that point, it was nine months before the election. Now, it’s 40 days. Republicans argue that the difference with 2016 is that Democrats controlled the White House then, now of course, Trump is president. It’s not clear voters will buy the argument. But a bigger problem may be that it associates him closely with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump – neither very popular in Colorado. It nationalized the race that he’s tried to make local about his accomplishments, Colorado issues and the debates.

The confirmation is also likely to bring health care and abortion into the discussion. Conservatives want a very dependable jurist and not someone like Chief Justice Roberts, who sometimes wavers. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be before the court on November 10 and could be ruled unconstitutional with its Medicaid expansion and protections for pre-existing conditions. Also, Roe v. Wade is frequently facing a legal challenge. Neither issue will be useful for Gardner, who’s behind in a tough race for re-election. He tends to want to focus on his position of pre-existing conditions, not outlawing the ACA, and he wisely avoids discussing his pro-life position, a minority view among most Colorado women and independent voters.

In fact, the national polls may not move much. Neither the President’s good nor bad news has changed his approval rating or the gap with Joe Biden much since early January. This may just be another issue that reinforces the status quo. In a year of high drama, with a presidential election, an impeachment, pandemic, recession, social turmoil, and now a Supreme Court confirmation, every institution in Washington is in the political conflict.

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