Vulnerable Senate Republicans tie themselves to Barrett with Trump’s numbers eroding

At Tuesday’s confirmation hearing, Republicans in tight races in North Carolina, Iowa, Texas and South Carolina were quick to rally to Barrett’s defense and are signaling they’ll vote to confirm her to the court just days before the November election.
Republicans are calculating that getting Barrett on the bench will overcome backlash from voters, given that polls show clear majorities believe that the winner of the November 3 elections should make the lifetime appointment — and the fact the Republican senators all took the opposite stance in 2016, when they opposed advancing President Barack Obama’s pick because, they said, March of that year was too close to Election Day.

“It’s not a close issue in South Carolina — for liberal judges or conservative judges, overwhelmingly conservative judges,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham told CNN. “I think that resonates with South Carolinians.”

At the hearing, Texas Sen. John Cornyn received praise from his supporters after asking Barrett to hold up a blank notepad to show that she wasn’t referencing any notes in her testimony. “That’s impressive,” Cornyn said.
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst pointed out, “I am pro-life,” while giving Barrett a chance to push back on Democrats’ line of questioning. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis read off a list of tweets attacking Barrett in an apparent attempt to stoke outrage at her treatment by her critics. And Graham defended his own health care position while noting he was being swamped by outside money in his race.
And with polls showing Trump losing in nearly every battleground state, Republicans say they need to run ahead of the President in their states — and they hope Barrett’s nomination will give them a boost down the final stretch.

“I’m hoping to outperform him in the state,” Cornyn told CNN when asked about Trump.

“I think it reminds people it does make a difference who is president,” Cornyn said of the Barrett hearings. “He made a generational mark on the judiciary with our help — and people understand that’s important. I think that could well help him, and I’m proud to support the President’s nominee.”

With the GOP clinging to its 53-47 majority, Democrats see a growing number of pickup opportunities across the country and are campaigning hard on the economic hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic. And on Tuesday, Democrats were careful to avoid letting the confirmation hearings devolve into ugly moments that could give the GOP fresh ammunition in the final three weeks of the campaign.
Graham sets the stage for Barrett's quick confirmation as hearings get underway

“They are just hell-bent on getting this done as fast as possible, and that’s because at least four of them are in death-defying reelection campaigns,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said Tuesday after the hearing. “They want to get out of town as fast as they can.”

Perhaps nowhere has the dynamic been more pronounced than with Graham, who is locked in a dead heat in his bid for reelection in South Carolina, and reversed his past opposition to moving on a Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year to now leading the charge to get Barrett to the bench at a lightning-quick pace.

Virtually everywhere Graham goes he mentions the Supreme Court fight, whether it was in a question about the coronavirus during his Senate debate earlier this month or on Fox News as he mentions Barrett’s confirmation and pitches for dollars in the next breath while he reads off the name of his campaign website.

“I’ve been following my race pretty close, probably closer than most. I’m working hard. I’m being challenged unlike any other time,” Graham said Tuesday night. “I like where I’m at.”

In Barrett’s second day of hearings on Tuesday, Graham was quick to link the proceedings to his race, subtly referencing his Democratic foe, Jaime Harrison, who has broken fundraising records in the contest after raising a staggering $57 million in the last quarter alone.

Graham joked to Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse that “me and you are going to come closer and closer about regulating money.”

“I don’t know what’s going on out there but I can tell you there’s a lot of money being raised in this campaign,” said Graham. “I’d like to know where the hell some of it’s coming from.”

The art of the dodge: Amy Coney Barrett's 11 hours in the Senate hot seat

In his opening remarks Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary chairman sought to blunt Democratic attacks that Barrett would shift the Supreme Court further to the right and undermine the Affordable Care Act.

“If it were up to me, bureaucrats would not be administering health care from Washington, people in South Carolina would be running health care,” said Graham. “If it were up to me, we would get more money under Obamacare than we do today; 35% would not go to three states, and sick people would be covered.”

“So that’s the political debate we’re involved in a campaign in South Carolina,” he said. “My fate will be left up to the people of South Carolina.”

He also played up his relationship with the President, mentioning their golf outings, and said he didn’t know if Trump was listening before praising his nominee as highly qualified and “one of the greatest picks President Trump could’ve made.”

Asked later about the propriety of mentioning his campaign, Graham said it’s “pretty appropriate for me to respond to political attacks in a political way.”

“I thought it was fair for me to say my position is there’s a better way for South Carolina,” said Graham, who noted that Democrats mentioned three different times during Monday’s hearing the impact Barrett could have on his state if she joined a conservative majority to strike down the Affordable Care Act.

And it happened on Tuesday as well.

Democrats repeatedly warned that Barrett would threaten the health care of America, one of their main campaign attacks against Republicans. The court will hear arguments on the landmark health care law’s constitutionality a week after Election Day.

Democrats grill Barrett on health care and abortion as Trump pick refuses to say how she'll rule

Durbin said Tuesday that in South Carolina, 242,000 people would lose their insurance coverage if the Affordable Care Act were eliminated and coverage for 2 million in the state with preexisting conditions would be threatened.

California Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee, ticked off the numbers of Americans in Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Iowa who could lose their insurance if the ACA were struck down, mentioning the states where Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee are running for reelection.

Tillis, one of the most vulnerable Republicans, spent much of his time in the hearing fending off health care attacks and defending Barrett. He said the left’s “Medicare for All” proposal “could be Medicare for none.” He said that while “we need to protect everyone,” the ACA had failed in containing costs and in its promise that “if you like your doctor you can keep it.”

Tillis also attacked Democrats on abortion, saying that his granddaughter had been born three weeks premature and they would support a “radical policy that would allow the right to take that child away.”

The senator, who recently tested positive for coronavirus, also put into the record a letter from his doctor that he had “fully complied” with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, though he has yet to say if he has now tested negative.

Cornyn, a former head of the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, said of the Barrett nomination’s impact on the battle for the majority: “I think everything is a little different by the state.”

“I think it’ll probably be a fundraising bonanza for my opponent,” he told CNN on Tuesday.

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