How Democrats plan to make Amy Coney Barrett radioactive

Without any actionable battle plan, Democrats are focused on winning the messaging fight. Polling from CNN suggests they have a head start, with nearly six in 10 Americans indicating that they think the winner of November’s election should fill the open Supreme Court seat. In the days since Ginsburg passed, Democrats have zeroed in on a Supreme Court case over the Affordable Care Act, slated for mid-November, to make their argument. “This is at once really complicated and really simple. And it’s really simple because we took back the house in ’18 by talking about health care and talking about nothing other than health care,” a Democratic Senate aide told me. “This is really simple, America. The ACA is about to go away because of this. Don’t use the word jurisprudence. Don’t talk about precedent. No one gives a shit. People care about their health care.”

The key will be not to get cornered into talking about issues like axing the Senate filibuster or packing the Supreme Court—two things predicated on a Biden victory and retaking the Senate majority anyway, and even then the vote count would be questionable. On a Wednesday call with reporters, Congressman Mark Pocan dismissed these discussions, saying that there are “a few too many hypotheticals in there for me to give you an answer.” Instead, they’re staying strictly on message, with the goal of raising the political cost for Senate Republicans. “Right now, we’re gonna do our very best to focus on explaining why it doesn’t make sense to rush a Supreme Court nominee through and what the consequences of that are,” he said.

That messaging may not satisfy those on the left who are urging drastic action to forestall a Trump pick. But from a strategic standpoint, keeping the drama to a minimum would keep the focus on COVID-19 and the tanking economy, two factors that are likely to weigh heavily with most voters.

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