Democrats look past Election Day in Barrett fight 

Greg Nash

Democrats are signaling they intend to go after Republicans who back Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court before Election Day not only this November, but in November 2022.

Democrats were able to make Sen. Susan Collins’s (R-Maine) vote for Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 a defining moment of her career and plan to do the same thing to other Republicans who back putting Barrett on the high court this fall.

But they are also eyeing the midterm elections that are two years away, believing the Senate votes could be damaging to Republicans such as Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Rob Portman (Ohio). Democrats could also eye picking up a seat in Pennsylvania, as Sen. Pat Toomey (R) announced Monday he would not seek reelection at the end of the next Congress.

“The lesson from Susan Collins is that a single vote as impactful as confirming a Supreme Court justice can reverberate for years after because you then own the record of the person who goes on the court,” said Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, a self-described progressive group that is “fighting to restore the ideological balance” of the federal courts that have shifted rightward under President Trump.

Collins is behind in the polls to Maine state House Speaker Sara Gideon, and now appears to be an underdog in a state where she’s had a long career.

It’s early to be making any predictions about 2022, but Senate Republicans will be defending between 20 and 22 seats in that cycle depending on outcomes in two special elections this year.

Democrats will only have to defend 12 seats.

No matter who wins the presidential election this year, senators such as Johnson and Rubio are likely to be top Democratic targets in 2022. If Joe Biden wins in November, however, it is the president’s party that typically loses seats in House and Senate elections in the first midterm after a new president takes office.

“If Trump loses, 2022 is going to be a good cycle for Republicans,” said a Senate GOP strategist. “If Biden wins, then all of a sudden Republicans are on offense for two years. Maybe our fundraising takes a turn for the better.”

One aide to a Republican up for reelection in 2022 argued that GOP Senate candidates on the ballot in 2016 weren’t hurt by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) decision that year to deny a hearing and vote for Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the high court.

“All of these members were up in 2016 when Merrick Garland was nominated and that issue was not a determining factor in anyone’s election,” the aide said.

Even so, Democrats are already gearing up to go after Republicans in 2022 who vote for Barrett in a fast-tracked confirmation process.

If a new Supreme Court with Barrett issues a ruling taking away abortion rights, such a decision is likely to shadow the battle for the Senate.

Republican strategists say that GOP senators who vote to postpone Barrett’s confirmation face a bigger threat from potential primary challengers in 2022.

“There’s no chance anybody wins a primary in 2022 if they vote against Amy Coney Barrett right now,” said the Senate Republican strategist.

Fallon noted that Be A Hero PAC, another liberal group, is raising money to put pressure on Republicans up in 2022 to oppose Barrett.

He argues Toomey might have announced his decision not to run in 2022 so early to sidestep what is expected to be an intense pressure campaign over Barrett’s confirmation in the days ahead.

“I do think that part of this [retirement] announcement was Toomey trying to take himself out of the political equation in terms of pressure activities that might be mounted in Pennsylvania,” he said. “I’m going to take myself out of the running for reelection in 2022 so I can make myself impervious to the fallout that might surround the decision to push [Barrett] through.”

“The Be A Hero PAC that created the $4 million escrow account for Susan Collins’s opponent is now doing the same in four states including Pennsylvania,” he added. “I think that fundraising efforts like that will kick into hyperdrive after this vote happens.

Toomey told reporters Monday that he had made up his mind recently — “days, couple of weeks, something like that” — and that he did so for “personal” reasons, not “political” reasons.

He said he decided to take the unusual step of announcing his retirement before the start of the next election because he was already getting calls from supporters offering to help him run for reelection to the Senate or for governor.

Toomey said he also thought he would’ve won reelection had he decided to run again.

Rodell Mollineau, a Democratic strategist and former Senate leadership aide, said if Barrett supports controversial rulings in the future on the Affordable Care Act or Roe v. Wade, “voters will have no one to look at but Senate Republicans who jam through this nomination.”

“Her votes on the Supreme Court will have profound consequences on American voters whether on issues of choice or the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “These are issues that will come home to roost for these Senate Republicans if Democrats continue to hold these Senate Republicans accountable for the actions taken in 2020.”

“You can’t vote out a member of the Supreme Court but you can vote out the folks who put them in there,” he added.

Tags Brett Kavanaugh Donald Trump Joe Biden Marco Rubio Merrick Garland Mitch McConnell Pat Toomey Rob Portman Ron Johnson Supreme Court Susan Collins

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