February 19, 2016 by David K. Sutton
How Will Obama’s SCOTUS Nominee Affect 2016 Election?
It would be an understatement to say the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has shaken up the 2016 election. The ideological composition of the high court is always part of any presidential election, but a sudden vacancy puts this into sharp focus.
We know President Obama will put forth a nomination. We know the Republican-controlled Senate is highly unlikely to confirm any Obama nominee. That means on election day this November, we are not only voting for the next president, we are also voting on the balance of power in the Supreme Court in a much more direct way.
Right now the court is evenly split 4/4 between conservative and liberal justices. Should a Republican win the presidential election, we will certainly see a conservative-leaning court. Should a Democrat win the election, there’s a chance we have a liberal-leaning court. I say “chance” because it depends on the Senate. If the Senate remains a Republican majority after the election (not a lock), getting a true liberal confirmed to the Supreme Court will be no easy task.
But, what affect will President Obama’s nominee have on the 2016 election? Should Obama choose an avowed liberal, or should he select a moderate? If Obama’s track record is any indication, and given the almost impossible task of Senate confirmation, it seems likely he will choose a moderate, giving him one last attempt to shame obstructionist Republicans. But, Obama could decide to make a statement about what is up for grabs this election by nominating a strong liberal candidate. Will that get enough Democrats and liberals engaged in this election to seal the deal for the Democratic presidential candidate? Or, will it backfire and energize the conservative base on election day? I’m not sure anyone can predict the future here, but these are all interesting questions to consider as we wait for Obama to nominate Scalia’s replacement.