Democrats from red states are facing a political dilemma in their careers. They are subject to intense pressure from their own party to vote against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. But they need to also think ahead to their re-election effort in 2018.
That includes roughly 10 Democrats caught in the cross-hairs. Judge Gorsuch would replace ultra-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. To get to the 60 votes necessary for his confirmation, Republicans need eight of those ten votes.
Any move to support Gorsuch will inflame the party’s progressive base, but opposing him will be fodder for Republicans and outside groups ahead of 2018. At this juncture, all ten are “feeling strongly both ways.”
Those Democratic senators are hearing flak from their town hall meetings and their Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer who plans to obstruct the president at every turn. But is that wise for those senators to go along? Schumer predicted that most of his 48-member conference will stay undecided through next week, telling Fox News’s Bret Baier, “I think people are waiting for the hearing.”
Republicans are desperate to get Gorsuch approved before Schumer’s political tentacles can paralyze on-the-fence red state senators. They have two weeks to do so before a recess on April 7th.
Anti-anything Trump organizations like Credo Action paired up with more than a dozen other Democratic outside groups to launch the “People’s Defense” urging Democratic lawmakers to take a tougher stand against Gorsuch. They paint the judge as pro-corporation and anti-worker. But the reality is if it was anyone else, the results would be the same. They want a no vote no matter what.
However, GOP and conservative groups have spent more than $3.3 million, according to CNN, compared to $180,000 from Democrats. They are being badly outspent and the pressure is mounting on these senators to cross the line or face defeat in 2018. TV and web ads permeate vulnerable Democrats in their home states.
The conservatives are deadly serious about Gorsuch being confirmed. The Judicial Crisis Network has pledged a total of $10 million to support Gorsuch’s nomination. That doesn’t include $4.4 million already spent on ads. Some of their main targets are Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Jon Tester (Mont.).
Republicans aren’t done there. Two GOP-aligned groups, the National Rifle Association Freedom Action Foundation and the Great American Alliance, both announced late seven-figure ad buys. Those are powerful adversaries. Add to that Concerned Veterans for America, a group aligned with GOP mega-donors David and Charles Koch.
It is a relatively safe bet that Gorsuch will be confirmed. By most standards he is a moderate and is popular with other judges, including those considered liberal. The Republicans are counting on his goodwill and reputation to hold back on the “nuclear option” instituted in 2013 by then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. That gives the Republican-held Senate the option of allowing a straight majority vote. They would like to keep that for Trump’s probable second nomination which most likely will be a liberal-held seat.
A February poll showed a plurality of Americans say Gorsuch should be confirmed. Most learned Washington-insiders do not think that card will be necessary. As long as the primary opposition is as predictable as Schumer and far left Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), most red state Democrats will not feel severe pressure.
Americans are now seeing first-hand what was the biggest reason Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. It was the seats to be vacated on the Supreme Court during the tenure of the new president. Liberal Democrats knew better than anyone what the Trump victory meant to the judicial branch of federal government; more conservatives for at least the next generation and more than likely beyond.