Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Endangered Republican senators face added danger from Supreme Court obstruction

It’s early in the fight to break through Republican obstruction and get a Supreme Court justice confirmed to replace the late Antonin Scalia. Voters aren’t fully paying attention to either that fight or to this November’s Senate elections. But the early signs are that swing-state Republican senators facing tough elections should be very worried about the consequences of obstruction. A new PPP poll suggests that’s very much the case for New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, both of whom start out with weak approval numbers:

-Strong majorities of voters in both states think that the vacant seat on the Supreme Court should be filled this year. It’s a 62/35 spread in favor of doing so in Wisconsin, and 59/36 in New Hampshire. One thing that really stands out in both states is what a strong mandate there is from independents for filling the seat- it’s 67/30 in Wisconsin and 60/33 in New Hampshire. Those are the voters who will end up determining whether Johnson and Ayotte get reelected this fall, and they disagree with them on this issue. [...]

-This is an issue that has the potential to hurt Johnson and Ayotte at the polls in races where they’re already struggling. 53% of voters in Wisconsin say they’re less likely to vote for Johnson because of his refusal to consider a nominee, compared to just 26% who say that stance makes them more likely to vote for Johnson. It’s a similar story with Ayotte- 51% are less likely to vote for her because of this, to only 26% who say they’re more likely to vote for her. This issue is particularly damaging for both of them with independents- 57% in New Hampshire and 56% in Wisconsin say obstructionism on this issue makes them less likely to vote to reelect their Republican Senator this fall.

Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and Ohio’s Rob Portman face similar numbers on this issue. And that’s before Democrats really start beating Republicans up on their refusal to even consider a qualified Supreme Court nominee. Republican leaders in the Senate have dug in their heels and made clear they won’t even look at the qualifications of anyone President Obama might nominate, but at some point they may have to consider the electoral damage they could face. (Or the prospect of a Supreme Court justice nominated by President Donald Trump, which might scare them just as much.)

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