Politico reports that the White House and its allies are about to commence a new campaign to get a hearing and a vote for Judge Merrick Garland. They’re calling it the 9-9-9 campaign: nine states, during nine days, to push for a court with nine justices.
The nine states are ones where Democrats think they might be able to pick up Senate seats this Fall. In addition, to the usual suspects — New Hampshire (Kelly Ayotte), Wisconsin (Ron Johnson), Pennsylvania (Pat Toomey), Ohio (Rob Portman) and Illinois (Mark Kirk) — and Iowa, home of Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, the 9-9-9 campaign will target Arizona (John McCain), North Carolina (Richard Burr), and Missouri (Roy Blunt).
9-9-9 isn’t really about getting Judge Garland confirmed, or even getting him a hearing. As Politico says, it “represents an unspoken acknowledgment that the Supreme Court fight is less about actually trying to get Garland on the bench before November, and more about turning the Republican resistance into a campaign issue to maximize GOP losses in the Senate, and even in the House.”
This has always been the case. The question is whether the Democrats will succeed.
There’s little doubt that voters in the nine states targeted favor a hearing for Garland. In Pennsylvania, for example, a poll by Hart Research shows that 56 percent support Garland getting a hearing, with 37 percent opposed, according to Politico.
But will opposition to a hearing cause Pennsylvanians to vote against Sen. Toomey? The Hart Research pollster says that among independents, “Toomey risks turning as much as 16 percent of the electorate against him by joining in the Republican obstruction of Judge Garland.” Exactly what this statement means is anyone’s guess.
Focus group testing suggests that the risk posed to Sen. Toomey and others by standing fast against Garland’s nomination is minimal. Julie Pace of Associated Press reported:
I sat in on some focus groups this past week with both swing voters and Republican voters, and some of the questions they were asked were about the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland. And this was a real reality check for anyone in Washington who thinks that this issue is really animating voters across the country.
I was so struck by how these voters seemed comply uninterested in the nomination fight. Among the swing voters, not one of them said that this was something that would really impact their vote in the fall. And even among the Republican voters who felt like this nomination should wait until the next president, almost none felt like this was an issue that was going to affect their vote either in the presidential race or in their Senate race.
9-9-9 is an effort to overcome this lack of interest. The campaign may succeed, but it doesn’t seem well tailored to reach swing voters. According to Politico:
[The organizers] will be holding press events, some with workers like nurses and janitors saying they’d be fired if they showed up to work and did their jobs, some with business leaders and law school deans calling attention to the effects of the continued vacancy on the Court and the prospect of more 4-4 decisions.
Other allied groups — including the Service Employees International Union, Planned Parenthood and Voto Latino — will also be organizing set events, which will include a town hall in Iowa to turn up the heat on Grassley. In Ohio, where they’re hoping to create a problem for GOP Sen. Rob Portman, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown will be leading a roundtable with mothers on the court issue, and Rep. Tim Ryan will be doing a separate press event.
I doubt that Senators Portman, Grassley, and the other seven are counting on support from the SEIU, Planned Parenthood, and Voto Latino.
Politico states that “the[se] efforts don’t have a clear dollar amount behind them.” This may be Politico-ese for “no one really wants to fund this.”
Herman Cain would be justified in thinking that his slogan deserves better than to be lifted by this crowd.