The Corner

Law & the Courts

Why Trump Is Waiting (a Little) to Pick a Ginsburg Replacement

President Trump at a campaign event in Fayetteville, N.C., September 19, 2020 (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

President Trump has announced that he will unveil his nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court Friday or Saturday, after Justice Ginsburg’s casket has been publicly viewed at the Court and the Capitol on Wednesday and Thursday. This is partly a nod to not appearing to be in an indecent rush to preempt public memorials, but of course, this is election season, power politics, and Donald Trump, so we can safely assume that is not the only thing being calculated here.

There are several potential motives in play, and most likely all of them play a role. It may be that Trump, despite publishing a list of potential nominees, genuinely wants or needs a few additional days to hear arguments in favor of various candidates and interview them again. It may be that the nominee herself (it is all but certain to be a woman) will need some time to prepare for the inevitable onslaught of character assassination and attacks on the privacy of her family. The likeliest motive of all, however, is that Trump and Senate Republicans believe that a battle over the Supreme Court and the Constitution is better for them politically than most anything else that is likely to make new headlines over the next week, and so they have every reason to stretch out the suspense — up until next Tuesday’s Trump–Biden debate, which will cut to the front of the line. A nominee rolled out on Friday or Saturday will dominate the Sunday papers and Sunday shows (granted, few things are more of a Beltway obsession of little importance to the average voter than ‘winning’ the Sunday shows).

There are, however, two downsides. One is that it will likely be easier to keep wavering Republican Senators in line once a nominee is announced, and a face put to the nomination. The other is that the calendar for getting a nomination through the Senate is tight already, and every additional day makes that a harder corner to turn.

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