While the early primary states are in full swing right now, the real battle is for Scalia's replacement on the Supreme Court, and conservative pundits are pretty confident that there's nothing Obama can do to beat them on this.
Taking action on a Supreme Court nominee — even through the Judiciary Committee — when Obama has less than a year left in his term would be a cardinal sin, conservative activists say.
They argue the ideological balance of the court is so important that it’s not worth playing political games to take the pressure off vulnerable Republican incumbents.
“I would rank having a conservative justice as more important than having the majority in the Senate,” said David Bozell, president of For America, a conservative advocacy group. “God knows this Republican majority in the Senate hasn’t done much anyway for conservatism, period."
“If you look at some of the conservative movement’s successes, it’s in large part due to the court doing some decent things and making some good decisions,” he added.
Two of the biggest court decisions in recent years, the District of Columbia v. Heller and Citizens United v. FEC, did far more to lift restrictions on gun ownership and political spending by outside groups — two conservative priorities — than anything passed by Republicans in Congress.
“The Senate isn’t as important on a great number of issues as the Supreme Court. The Senate is not going to determine whether or not we have Second Amendment rights, the Supreme Court is. The Senate is not going to determine marriage, the Supreme Court did. The Supreme Court, not the Senate, determined abortion,” said Mike Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
“The issues that are of great concern to the conservative movement have all been decided by the Supreme Court,” he added.
They're correct on the stakes, at least. A fifth liberal justice would change the face of America, and they know it. And should the next (Democratic!) president be able to replace a retiring Ginsburg and Breyer with jurists in their 50's like Justice Kagan, on top of filling Scalia's seat, it would be a quarter-century of dominance.
And that, more than anything else, would terrify the right.
But it would begin with filling Scalia's seat, and as long as the GOP controls the Senate, they can block an appointment or simply refuse to hold hearings.
The voters would have to do something about that before this situation gets resolved.
Will they in November?
PS, for those of you worried that Clinton versus Trump wouldn't motivate voters, if winning the Supreme Court for a generation doesn't motivate them, then we deserve Trump appointing Justices.