When President Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, I think he understood that the Republican Senate would not confirm the judge, at least not before the November election. Obama hoped instead that Republican intransigence would hurt GOP Senators up for reelection this Fall.
Blocking Garland required the assistance of Sen. Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley is up for reelection.
I never seen good evidence that blocking judicial nominees harms the party doing the blocking. Moreover, Grassley is popular in Iowa.
But one never knows. Polling indicated that the public favors a hearing for Garland. Grassley took a risk when he made it clear there would not be one.
It appears, though, that Grassley has not been harmed. A North Star Opinion Research survey commissioned by the Judicial Crisis Network (a conservative group) found that Iowa voters are split down the middle on whether Justice Scalia’s seat should be filled now or by the next president. Only 9 percent rank the matter of holding hearings and voting on Garland’s nomination as one of the top three issues that will determine how they vote in November.
Just 16 percent of undecided voters have even heard of Garland, while 74 percent say they’ve heard “only a little or nothing” about the nomination. “Voters know little about Merrick Garland personally, and are not following the issue particularly closely,” said North Star. “The debate is not hurting Senator Chuck Grassley, who is in a solid position as he begins his reelection campaign,” it added.
How solid? According to the poll, Grassley leads his Democratic opponent Patty Judge by a 53-35 margin. He enjoys a 51 to 35 percent favorable-unfavorable rating (including 49 to 33 percent among independents),
Might Garland’s treatment by the Republican Senate affect the outcome of the Senate race in a Blue State with a Republican incumbent — say Illinois (Mark Kirk) or Pennsylvania (Pat Toomey)? Possibly. But that too seems quite unlikely.