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JCN, One Nation, AFP Lay Out SCOTUS Ad Buy Plans

Republicans are pressuring Democrats to support Trump's nominee to replace Anthony Kennedy.

June 28, 2018, 11:04 a.m.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement “announcement Wednesday sent a shock through the 2018 midterm races, animating the bases of both major political parties, which essentially view abortion as a litmus test.” It “could also help Republicans keep the Senate because many Democratic senators up for reelection in November represent red states.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “said that the Senate will vote on Kennedy’s successor this fall. If he or she begins serving by the beginning of the Court’s term on the first Monday in October, Americans would enter the voting booth with" President Trump’s "choice at the top of mind.”

“On Wednesday, many Democrats … focused on health care and abortion rather than some sense of lost decorum.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: “Nothing less than the fate of our health care system, reproductive rights for women, and countless other protections for middle-class Americans are at stake. The Senate should reject, on a bipartisan basis, any justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade or undermine key health care protections.”

“Conservative groups quickly mobilized into action Wednesday. The Judicial Crisis Network announced a seven-figure ad buy to put pressure on red-state Democratic senators.” (National Journal)

MORE AD BUYS. The McConnell-aligned One Nation “is launching a multistate digital blitz” Thursday “morning to support a conservative to replace Anthony Kennedy on the bench. The $100,000 buy is running in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”

The announcer: "A new vacancy on the Supreme Court ... And our freedom hangs in the balance. But the far left will stop at nothing to block President Trump's choice." (Politico)

A spokesman for the Koch network also said it is “prepared to commit seven-figures to support a nominee in the mold of [Justice] Neil Gorsuch - someone who will interpret the law as written and not legislate from the bench.” (Hotline reporting) “Sarah Field, the vice president for judicial strategy at conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity … indicated the group would support any candidate on Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees.” (HuffPost)

Planned Parenthood and Susan B. Anthony List said “they will pour resources into the Supreme Court battle.” (BuzzFeed)

ALL EYES ON 2018. “The main Democrats to keep an eye on are Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). All three face difficult reelections this fall in states President Trump won overwhelmingly. All three also voted for Gorsuch last year — though it should be noted that Gorsuch’s confirmation was assured anyway, due to unified Republican support, so the stakes were lower. As for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who represent similarly deep-red states, they voted against Gorsuch last year and have generally been more likely to vote against the Trump agenda than the senators detailed above.” (Vox)

“[F]or Republicans who have feared a massive enthusiasm advantage for Democrats, the sudden vacancy that could shape the court’s direction for a generation was nothing short of a gift from the political gods. In addition to a massive dose of energy, the Supreme Court fight is expected to trigger a flood of new campaign cash that will strengthen the GOP’s midterm efforts.” (AP)

NRSC Chairman Cory Gardner said “that the coming Supreme Court fight would be ‘perhaps the most significant issue that you could imagine, going into the fall.’”

“Democrats are unable to stop the GOP from confirming Trump’s nominee because Senate Republicans killed the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees. But they may be able to sway a handful of pro-abortion rights Republicans — if they can stick together. At the least, Democrats could present a united front that energizes their liberal base going into the midterm elections.” (Politico)

“His departure puts in play an array of consequential issues, with liberal rulings on access to abortion, gay rights, capital punishment and voting rights having been decided by his decision to part from fellow court conservatives.” (Wall Street Journal)

“It can mobilize voters, break through the noise of the president's daily actions or tweets, and give Republican voters who might be disenchanted with the president or the current political moment a reason to channel their energies. The issue will be a big motivator for evangelicals in particular, as it was in 2016. … Putting another conservative justice on the court would also give Republicans a concrete accomplishment to point to, after a year that has been marked with a number of high-profile legislative collapses.” (BuzzFeed)

Schumer “on Wednesday urged Republicans to follow” McConnell’s “2016 precedent and wait until after upcoming elections to consider a nominee to fill retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat.” (Talking Points Memo) DSCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen, Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said the confirmation vote should take place after a new Senate is elected. (releases/Twitter)

“Within hours the announcement that Kennedy would retire, Democratic politicians began sending out fund-raising emails citing the possible impact of a Trump Supreme Court appointee on abortion rights and other issues.” (Reuters) They include the DSCC and the NRSC; Reps. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), and Sens. Feinstein, Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS). (Hotline reporting/Politico)

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) “predicted earlier this year that Kennedy would retire and said it would help galvanize his base. He sent out a fundraising appeal to supporters almost immediately after the vacancy was announced.”

“Republican Senate candidates lashed out at Democratic incumbents after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement announcement Wednesday, arguing that the Democrats have stood in the way of conservative judges backed by ... Trump and their constituents.” (Politico)

Tester “said that he takes ‘my constitutional duty to vet all nominees very seriously.’” (Wall Street Journal) Montana Auditor Matt Rosendale (R): “I’m not holding my breath that Tester will finally…support the president’s nominee.” (Twitter)

Manchin: “Senators have a responsibility to do our jobs as elected officials and this includes our Constitutional obligation to advise and consent on a nominee to fill this Supreme Court vacancy.” (release)

Donnelly: “Part of my job as a United States Senator is to carefully consider the president’s judicial nominees, including for the Supreme Court, and I will thoroughly review the record and qualifications of any nominee presented to the Senate.” (release)

Former Indiana state Rep. Mike Braun (R): “Hoosiers won’t be fooled by Senator Donnelly’s election year pandering.” (Facebook)

McCaskill: “I believe it's premature to discuss his replacement until one has been nominated.” (Kansas City Star)

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R): “Claire McCaskill has never once voted in line with Missouri’s wishes on a Supreme Court nominee, and that’s why she must be replaced.” (Facebook)

California state Sen. Kevin de León (D): “In 2016, Senator Feinstein and other D.C. Democratic leaders effectively surrendered the judicial branch of our government, and decades of hard-won progress along with it. They should have pushed back on Senator Mitch McConnell when they had the chance, and now we may all pay a heavy price for their failure to do so. ... I call on all Senate Democrats to vocally reject any and all consideration of this President’s Supreme Court nominees." (release)

SWING STATES. Florida Gov Rick Scott (R): “We cannot delay having a solid justice and Senate Democrats should not try to play politics or obstruct this process. It's imperative the next justice will uphold our Constitution and fairly and accurately interpret our laws." (Facebook)

Baldwin: “It’s important that Wisconsinites have an independent Justice who will bring people together, side with them over powerful special interests, and protect the constitutional rights and freedoms of all Americans.” (release)

Brown said he was “already very troubled by the actions of the Supreme Court in just the last few weeks — taking away workers’ rights, voters’ rights and women’s rights. … I hope the president will take this opportunity to bring Americans together by appointing someone with a well-respected record that all sides can support.” (Columbus Dispatch)

Businessman John James (R-MI): "I am the only conservative in this race. And as Michigan's next US Senator I will only support pro-life, conservative justices for the federal bench."

James pointed out his opponent to face Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), businessman Sandy Pensler (R-MI), previously said, “I would not, and this might not make people happy here, use a litmus test of any one issue for Supreme Court judge." (release)

RED STATES. Blackburn: “As Tennessee's next senator, I will be committed to confirming more judges, like Neil Gorsuch, who will honor and uphold our Constitution. I will vote to confirm good constitutional justices who will not be activists and legislate from the bench." (release)

Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D): “I’m going to vote for or against a nominee based solely on whether I believe them to be highly qualified and ethical, not based on partisan politics.” (release)

Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) called Kennedy’s retirement a “historic day.” Cruz: “What the Gorsuch pick did at the very best was maintain the status quo. The Justice Kennedy vacancy, on the other hand, is an opportunity to really have a profound impact on the court that could last for decades." (Texas Tribune)

O’Rourke: “Any nomination to that seat must live up to the words written above the steps of the highest court in the land, ‘equal justice under law.’" (Twitter)

Cruz: “I think the single best choice that President Donald Trump could make to fill this vacancy is” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). (Fox News)

Lee: “I started watching Supreme Court arguments for fun when I was 10 years old. So if somebody asked me if I would consider that I would not say no. But the president’s got a decision to make and I trust his ability to make it and make it well.” (Washington Post)

IN OTHER NEWS. AFP on Thursday also announced a radio, digital, and mail campaign blasting, among others, Heitkamp, Donnelly, McCaskill, Tester, and Baldwin over the week of July 4 for being “the deciding vote against President Trump’s modest spending cuts” in the rescissions package. (release)

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