MEMO: Supreme Court Obstruction Takes A Toll On GOP Senators’ Approvals As Trump Makes Strides Towards Nomination

Apr 28 2016

TO: Interested Parties


DATE: April 28, 2016

RE: Supreme Court Obstruction Takes A Toll On GOP Senators’ Approvals As Trump Makes Strides Towards Nomination


Wednesday marked the day that Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland should have his nomination hearing, based on past average timelines of previous Supreme Court nominations. But of course, there will be no hearing this week because Senate Republicans are leading an unprecedented obstruction of the constitutional process.

By disregarding one of the most fundamental responsibilities of their jobs, Senate Republicans are further endangering their fragile Senate majority. After weeks of scathing editorials from newspapers in their home states and a two-week recess that was dominated by Supreme Court headlines, vulnerable Republican Senators are starting to see the effects of their obstruction in their slipping poll numbers. And with Trump getting closer to the nomination every week, the stakes of GOP obstruction are even higher.


State by State Polling Shows Weakened Approvals

Polling in Senate battleground states in the weeks immediately after Justice Scalia’s death overwhelmingly showed that voters wanted the Supreme Court vacancy to be filled this year, and recent polling in these states has highlighted that voters remain angry with Republicans’ unprecedented obstruction.


New Hampshire: “Ayotte’s opposition to Supreme Court nomination doesn’t sit well with voters, poll says”

That Concord Monitor headline says it all. A WMUR poll released last week highlighted that “Ayotte’s support for the Senate Republican leadership’s refusal to hold a hearing on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland appears to have hurt her in the eyes of voters.” Ayotte’s favorable ratings have seen a net 13 point shift away from her since February with her favorable rating falling to 41 percent from 47 percent in the earlier poll and her unfavorables increasing to 38 percent from 31 percent in February. The poll also found that 40% of voters said Ayotte’s Supreme Court obstruction would make them less likely to vote for her in November.


Ohio: Survey should “serve as a wake-up call to Sen. Portman, an exceptionally weak incumbent who is ill-defined in the minds of Ohio voter”

That comment above from pollster Geoff Garin reflects his findings from a mid-April poll that found Ohio voters, especially swing voters, overwhelmingly oppose Portman’s obstruction on the Supreme Court. The poll found that a whopping 59 percent of Ohio voters have an unfavorable opinion of Portman’s decision to block the nominee, including 2/3 of swing voters. Intensity is working against Portman – those who have a strong opinion on the matter support hearings and a vote by two to one. And 63 percent of voters say they are following the news on the vacancy. Portman’s approvals took a hit when voters were informed about his Supreme Court stance, with 59% viewing him unfavorably. This is a crucial time for Portman, during which his close association with the GOP blockade strategy is a problem, especially if he wants to outrun whichever toxic candidate emerges from the Republican primary.


Pennsylvania: “Toomey’s support wilts under Supreme backlash”

Headlines like that one from the Sunbury Daily Item blared in Pennsylvania during and after the most recent recess. In Pennsylvania, Senator Pat Toomey is seeing his unfavorable ratings skyrocket, with the most recent Franklin & Marshall poll showing that 35 percent have an unfavorable impression of Toomey, up from 23 percent, and one of Toomey’s highest unfavorable ratings since his election in 2010. Speaking about Toomey’s Supreme Court obstruction, a registered independent voter said he views Toomey unfavorably because he’s “part of the system, just another Republican obstructionist…How about trying to compromise once in a while?” The same poll showed 62% of Pennsylvanians want the Senate to hold hearings and a vote on Judge Garland.


Toomey’s obstruction and “sagging” approvals were front page news back home:


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Sen. Toomey’s unfavorability rating growing



National Polling Shows Voters Want Action on SCOTUS.

In addition to polls in individual battleground states, recent national polls show that voters across the country disagree with Republicans’ unprecedented obstruction. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll out last week showed that Americans’ disapproval of Republicans’ Supreme Court stance actually grew in recent weeks. 52 percent of voters want the Senate to act on Judge Garland, compared to 48% in the beginning of March. Most notably, Republican opposition to the Senate GOP’s Supreme Court stance grew by eight points. This recent polling clearly shows that Republican Senators continue to be on the wrong side of the Supreme Court issue.


But These Numbers Aren’t Even The Scariest Part…

As approvals continue to sag over GOP intransigence on the Supreme Court, it will no doubt have a spillover effect into their chances at re-election. But the scariest part is that Senate Republicans like Kelly Ayotte, Rob Portman, Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson and others are ready to let Donald Trump nominate the next Supreme Court justice. A national poll shows that sweeping majorities of voters don’t trust Trump or Ted Cruz to make the next appointment. But as vulnerable Senators have all pledged to support the eventual nominee, and as Trump continues his march to securing the nomination, these Senators are saying that Trump – whose presidential campaign has been defined by toxic rhetoric and offensive comments – should make a lifetime appointment to the highest court in America. That is the most troubling fact of all.

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