WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spent a year prepping his Republican colleagues for this moment, telling them the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is the “most important” vote they will take as senators, the chance to make “seismic change” that will stay with the nation for generations to come.
Now, three weeks before Election Day, the GOP leader needs this moment more than ever.
Confirmation hearings are set to begin Monday for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee giving Republicans one last chance to salvage their Senate majority by wresting attention away from the White House and its COVID-19 response and onto the GOP’s longtime goal of fashioning a conservative court.
The arrival of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett offers a long-shot opportunity to bring wayward Republican voters back in the fold. As Trump's standing drops in internal polls, McConnell hopes to remind voters why they stuck with Trump in 2016: the promise of another conservative justice ruling on abortion access and other big issues. Democrats are within range of seizing Senate control Nov. 3.
“It’s going to do what it’s going to do -- energize the base,” said Doug Deason, a wealthy Dallas donor who is the Northern Texas fundraising chairman for Trump and helps congressional Republicans.
That’s the optimistic view. It’s coming mostly from those Republicans and backers still pouring millions of dollars into campaign efforts to salvage McConnell’s slim 53-47 GOP majority.
The more dour assessment is that McConnell is simply trying to grab whatever he can before he and his majority are out the door.
“To me, it just indicates a clear lack of confidence in Donald Trump and these Senate races,” said Stuart Stevens, a veteran Republican strategist who helmed Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign and now is among those trying to defeat Trump.