The White House has begun vetting candidates to fill the vacancy of Antonin Scalia. The lot includes four judges, Iowa appellate judge Jane L. Kelly, DC appellate judge Merrick Garland, DC circuit court judge Sri Srinivasan, federal trial judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, and one GOP governor, Brian Sandoval.
President Obama’s plan on its face is a simple one: Nominate someone whom the Senate cannot reject. Confirmed by unanimous vote, Sri Srinivasan and Jane Kelly appear to be ideal candidates for slipping through a gridlocked Senate, at least on a PR level. If the Senate fails to confirm someone they’ve already confirmed, the move could tarnish the Republican image in the general election. The president could then argue the stand-off as a ruse, with Republicans holding not only a seat on the Supreme Court hostage, but also the president’s Constitutional right to nominate; however, the counter argument by Republicans has already been made, a failure to hear a nomination is simply the Senate exerting its advice and consent.
The nomination fight between the president and Senate Republicans has spilled from the bar onto the street, with the potential to effect multiple competitive Senate races in November. Of the four states outlined in a new PPP poll, North Carolina’s own Richard Burr finds himself between a rock and a hard place. Does he stand with the party, reject a nomination, and risk losing his seat? Or does he side with North Carolina voters and attempt to court moderate Republicans and annoyed Democrats? His favorables are already upside down at 28/44, but given 55% of North Carolina voters who want a nomination this year, and 66% of North Carolina voters with disdain for the Senate’s blocking of any and all nominee, the latter appears to be his best option.
In our Feb. 13 flash poll, NC State students, siding with North Carolina voters, believed the duty of filling the vacancy fell to President Obama. Sixty percent of students chose the president, with 36% strongly in favor of an Obama nomination. On the other hand, of the 40% who chose the next president, only 23% were strongly in favor of their position.
When combined, the two polls paint a clear picture of the political landscape of North Carolina. Any candidate running for statewide office who believes Senate Republicans should obstruct a nominee will have a difficult road to victory in November, perhaps even a difficult road out of their primary on March 15. Maybe this is why Senator Thom Tillis, who’s seat is not even up for contest, warned against an obstructionist strategy.
The battle lines are quickly being drawn. North Carolina appears to united against the strategy of Senate Republicans, but it also doesn’t appear to be the only state to push back. It is unclear where this fight will lead, but it has guaranteed an interesting election year.