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In 2020, as in 2016, it’s the Supreme Court nominations, stupid

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh arrives to speak at the Federalist Society's Antonin Scalia Memorial Dinner in Washington on Nov. 14, 2019.T.J. Kirkpatrick/NYT

In 2016 I predicted that the tipping point in the mind of many voters would be their chosen candidate’s power to appoint new justices to the Supreme Court who would rule their way on core issues, such as abortion. As it happened, exit polls indicated that 21 percent of the electorate said that Supreme Court appointments were “the most important factor,” and of that 21 percent, Donald Trump won 56 percent of the vote. More important, as noted in Tim Alberta’s book “American Carnage,” 26 percent of those who voted for Trump said the Supreme Court appointments “were the most important factor” in their decision.

The Republicans’ taking of control of the Senate in 2014 allowed majority leader Mitch McConnell to block President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, thereby preserving this vacancy for the conservative electorate. With apologies to the former Celtics broadcaster Johnny Most, McConnell stole the election.


Why is this important now? The pathetically inept performance of the president over the last number of months has laid bare his unfitness for office. However, the very real prospect of at least one and possibly two vacancies on the court over the next four years may create a powerful incentive again for conservatives with an agenda to reelect Trump. It is, after all, perhaps the only promise he can actually deliver.

Neil Rossman