- The vacancy on the Supreme Court created by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement could reshape campaign spending in the final stretch of the 2018 midterm elections.
- The way donations are allocated could now affect different races and different candidates, as a high-stakes seat hangs in the balance.
WASHINGTON – When Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the US Supreme Court last Wednesday, he did more than just create a historically significant opening on the highest court – he also indirectly upended the way advertising will be prioritised for a large chunk of the final stretch of the 2018 midterm elections.
Within hours of Kennedy’s announcement, conservative groups launched their offensive to maintain public pressure to confirm whomever President Donald Trump decides to nominate.
Immediately, the Judicial Crisis Network, which pushed heavily for Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, released a 30-second video advertisement as part of a seven-figure campaign to confirm “another great justice,” despite not even knowing who the next nominee would be.
“President Trump has proven he wants the best of the best on the Supreme Court. He appointed Neil Gorsuch, a fair and independent justice committed to the Constitution,” the ad said. “Now there is another opening, a chance to appoint another great justice.”
JCN also spent heavily during the final year of the Obama administration to oppose Chief Judge Merrick Garland, who was slated to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat. Republicans ultimately blocked any hearings or votes on Garland’s nomination, paving the way for Gorsuch after Trump became president.
In addition, Koch-funded groups began galvanizing their forces. Americans for Prosperity planned to spend millions on pressuring vulnerable Democrats or Republicans who are on the fence about a potential nominee.
A new cause can upend the way money will be allocated ahead of the midterm elections
During Gorsuch’s confirmation process, he sailed through relatively easily. Despite a narrow vote, three Democrats still voted to confirm him. Because that pressure on Democrats and certain Republicans will be that much higher, the spending will be bigger.
These big dollar campaigns are significant because many donors will now be faced with a choice about what efforts to prioritise.
In the current political climate, where Supreme Court nominations is a highly polarising process, more campaigning and money is needed for groups that would like to curry favour with the public. This comes at the same time many Republicans in places such as California, Florida, and Nevada are particularly vulnerable going into the midterm elections.
Because it is the Senate’s job to confirm whomever Trump nominates, those statewide candidates could now get a lot more attention from donors, as the fate of the Supreme Court could hang in the balance. It is a moderate level of concern among Republicans campaigning for House seats.
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