The stunning death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — announced just hours before the six remaining Republican presidential candidates gathered Saturday in South Carolina for a debate — immediately ups the ante in the GOP primary and could well cement the base’s commitment to nominating a “true” conservative along the lines of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
“We ought to make the 2016 election a referendum on the Supreme Court,” Cruz told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” Sunday. “I cannot wait to stand on that debate stage with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders and talk about what the Supreme Court will look like depending on who wins.”
As Cruz well knows, there is no issue that so animates the Republican base as appointments to the judicial bench — most notably the Supreme Court. Many conservatives have never forgiven then-President George H.W. Bush for appointing David Souter to the court — only to see Souter turn into a less-than-ideal conservative pick. George W. Bush’s 2005 nomination of Harriet Miers was scuttled by conservatives who believed her past record demonstrated a lack of fealty to their principles.
The importance of the court — and of the party of the president who nominates the justices — has been driven home to Republicans even more directly over the past seven years of the Obama administration. In that time, the court has ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and legalized gay marriage — two rulings that the GOP’s conservative base views as betrayals.
What is known is that Scalia’s death will reshape the fight both for the Republican nomination and the White House in the fall in ways large and small. At first blush, those changes should further move the debate within the GOP into territory where Cruz is both comfortable and compelling.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.