Tanzina: President Trump has said he will announce his nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg this Saturday. In order for that nomination to be stopped, there are four Republican senators who would have to vote against it. Senator Susan Collins is one of them. Collins is facing a contentious Senate race in Maine where she said she would oppose the nomination, and hers is just a handful of races that could be deeply affected by Ginsburg's death. For more, I'm joined by Steve Mistler, chief political correspondent for Maine Public Radio. Steve, welcome to the show.
Steve: My pleasure.
Tanzina: What makes Senator Collin's race different from other Senate races across the country right now, Steve?
Steve: I think for Senator Collins, her race has already had a bit of a judicial appointment imprint put on it, because in 2018 she was a key vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and that vote, you can almost draw a straight line from that vote to where she is right now, which is in a very precarious position. She's in the fight of her life.
Collins for years, she'd always been self-identified as a pro-choice candidate. That stance is part of the reason why she was always-- Her coalition has always been Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, but since then, what we've seen is a deterioration of that coalition to the point where she's running neck and neck or behind according to some polls to her Democratic challenger, Sarah Gideon.
The passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has only intensified that imprint if you will. Regardless of what she said yesterday, which is that she will vote no if a confirmation vote comes before election day. That may not help her all that much. In fact, what we're seeing now is that she's getting a lot of pressure from the right including the President.
Tanzina: What's interesting you mentioned her vote for Brett Kavanaugh while many folks were hoping that she would vote against Kavanaugh's appointment. Senator Collins, as you mentioned, faces a really tough reelection campaign. She's 12 points behind her Democratic challenger. Is it cynical to say that she's making this political calculation rather than what some would expect would be moral courage?
Steve: There's certainly a lot of cynics who believe that, let's put it that way. She's been criticized before, especially during the Trump era. This middle ground where she likes to operate has really shrunk beneath her feet. On the left, there's lot of demands to resist the President and on the right, there's demands for fealty to the President.
What she did yesterday was looked at with a lot of skepticism from the left because Mitt Romney had already announced that he will vote to confirm a justice regardless of when it has. It had several other potential swing votes. It's really just Senator Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. She came out and clarified a statement she had released on Saturday, which kind of left the door open and left a lot of questions about what she would do if the Senate did rush a vote.
When she came out yesterday, those four senators that you mentioned, four Republican senators had already been accounted for, they're not there. Her vote at the end, a no-vote, may not matter all that much. I don't know that her position is going to necessarily help her with the center, left coalition that she may have already lost.
Tanzina: Steve, we've got about a minute or less than a minute left, but just curious how Mainers are thinking about this right now, because the polls don't look pretty good for Collins.
Steve: Yes. I think Mainers in general, they're divided. She did, again, during the Kavanaugh vote, she took a lot of pressure from the right, but also a lot of it from the left. My impression is that the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, again, the kavanaugh vote was always an imprint on the race. This has really just reanimated that impression. I think it'll carry through on election day. People are going to have it top of mind, especially as these confirmation hearings go forward.
Tanzina: Steve Mistler is Chief Political Correspondent from Maine Public Radio. Steve, thanks so much.
Steve: Thank you.
Tanzina: Now we're going to zoom out and look at how some other races are being affected, including how Democrats have seen a huge surge in donations over the past few days. Joining me now is Shane Goldmacher, National Political Reporter at the New York Times. Shane, welcome to TheTakeaway.
Shane: Thanks for having me on.
Tanzina: We just talked a little bit about Maine in the previous segment, but what other races are most affected by the shakeup in the court?
Shane: I'm not sure that there's a major Senate race that hasn't seen an impact from the court shake-up for the court vacancy. All across the country, Democratic Senate candidates have seen really unprecedented infusion of cash from small donors that came in organically in the hours after Justice Ginsburg passed away, and Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader announced there would be a floor vote on whomever President Trump will appoint later this week.
I've talked to Democratic strategist from Alaska, which was really a completely off the map race to some of the most heated races. We're talking multimillion dollars in most of these contests, out of basically nowhere at the home stretch using fusions of money that's going to allow all of these Democratic candidates to buy more television ads, potentially hire more staff, run more digital spots, it doesn't mean they're going to win but it absolutely shifted the landscape in an instant almost, financially at least in the Democratic Party's favor.
Tanzina: What is the connection there that people are trying to save? There's obviously concern that now that President Trump has indicated that he will try at least to appoint another Supreme Court Justice before the election, how does that connect to what people are doing by trying to send cash to the Senate races, particularly the Democrats?
Shane: Yes, it's a really good question. I think that for so many people they know that Donald Trump is going to pick his choice for the Supreme Court. If the Democratic Party has any hopes of stopping that choice, it lies in the Senate, which has to confirm any nomination. There are a handful of swing senators who were up this year. People like Susan Collins, who you were just talking about, Lindsey Graham, who is the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, who will oversee any kind of a confirmation hearing.
They would like to put pressure on them and put pressure on them to not move forward at least before the election in Colorado. One of the other most vulnerable Republican senators is Cory Gardner. Put pressure on those senators, and then also potentially win back the Senate, so make it politically tougher for the Republicans to confirm someone if the calendar drags past November 3rd, in terms of confirmation process.
Imagine this. Joe Biden wins the presidency, Senate Democrats take control of the majority on November 3rd or in the days after, as we probably understand that the election results may not in fact come on November 3rd, but Democrats take control of the Senate, and then the Republicans confirm a Supreme Court Justice. That's a real political pickle for Republican Party, and so Democrats want to put them in that kind of a pickle.
I cover money and politics for the New York Times. I've never seen anything quite like this in the four days after Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, ActBlue, which is this website that processes most donations that are made online to political candidates on the left, saw $200 million in campaign contributions. That's about $130 million more than the previous four day period. This is just an enormous windfall of money.
Tanzina: Like you mentioned, ActBlue. I was going to ask you exactly what was the catalyst for that, because generally speaking, the Democratic Party has at least from our perspective, has lagged a little bit in terms of galvanizing its voter base to really think about the Supreme Court, has that shifted because of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg?
Shane: This is the hope of Democratic Party strategist, that this money is a sign that the Democratic base cares more about Supreme Court vacancies than they have in the past. This has been a Republican issue to motivate Republican voters. Donald Trump famously in 2016, put out a list of specific Justices he would pick if he became President because the right was so skeptical of this guy who had been married three times, a former Democrat had been pro-choice.
Now was saying, telling the world he was pro-life. The Supreme Court is a galvanizing issue for the right and has been for a long time, but look, the possibility of the Supreme Court tilting to a 6-3 conservative majority with major things up for grabs, including Roe V. Wade, I think has the potential to galvanize the left.
Tanzina: Now, we sort of touched on this earlier and I know we can't make any predictions here, but what would it take, Shane, for Democrats to actually win the Senate? There's money, but you mentioned that this could also be just a pressure point to put particularly on senators like Collins and Gardner. Could this turn into actual votes?
Shane: The Democrats could absolutely win the Senate in November. There are more than enough seats that they can win. There's probably three seats that they're favored to win at this point, and they only need to win four to take the majority. That said, it is not clear that galvanizing both parties through a Supreme court vacancy in the days before an election will be a net benefit for the Democratic Party.
A lot of the seats that the Democrats want to win and need to win to take the majority were carried by President Trump in 2016. States like Iowa, Georgia, South Carolina. These are places where if everybody just puts on the red Jersey, if voters see the Republican Senator and President Trump as part of defending a court seat. It's bad for the Democrats because in a lot of those places, they're running ahead of the Republican Senator compared to the President.
They need to be differentiated from President Trump. They want somebody to pick President Trump at the top and pick the Democratic Senate candidate because they like them better down-ballot. That gets harder in a lot of those States. One of the other ones I didn't mention, Montana popular Democratic governor running could win that seat from Republican.
This is a state that Donald Trump won by 20 percentage points. If the Democratic nominee Steve Bullock is going to win, he has to do better than the average Democrat. He has to do better than Joe Biden. Making a hyper-partisan polarized electorate with a big Supreme Court fight, even with all this money may not help.
Tanzina: Shane Goldmacher is a National Political Reporter at The New York Times. Shane, thanks for joining me.
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