Of all the massive follow-up questions raised by the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the more persistent – yet important – is, “How will this affect the 2020 elections?” The short answer is that nobody knows; It’s just too early to tell. But we can use the FiveThirtyEight forecast to set a marker and advance some plausible theories.
As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, September 22, Joe Biden has a 77-to-100 chance of winning the presidential election, while President Trump still has a 22-to-100 chance. Despite the fact that the polls told the same old story, Biden’s chances have increased over the past few weeks, largely as we near the elections and Biden continues to receive some good government polls.
But could the opening of the Supreme Court shake up the race? Preliminary evidence probably doesn’t suggest it. In one SurveyMonkey / Insider Survey Immediately after Ginsburg’s death, only 5 percent of registered voters said the vacant seat made them less secure. And in one Reuters / Ipsos poll30 percent (most of them Democrats) said they were more likely to vote for Biden, about as much as the 25 percent (most of them Republicans) who said they were more likely to vote for Trump. A large number (38 percent) said it would not affect their presidential election.
However, the Senate, where Democrats have a 60 to 100 chance of taking control, could be a different story. Several vulnerable members of this chamber are now faced with the politically difficult decision of whether to vote to confirm Trump’s soon-to-be-announced candidate for the Supreme Court.
We still don’t know what, if any, effect this development could have on the races in the Senate, but one plausible theory is that the Supreme Court vacancy makes bias – as expressed by a person’s presidential election – an even more important consideration . This may have been the case in the 2018 election when Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmatory vote appeared cement republican support in red states and democratic support in blue states. (Of course, this “coming home to base” could have happened anyway.)
If that happens in 2020, how could it change the Senate landscape? I used the projected vote margins of our forecast to determine which competitive Senate races are most inconsistent with the expected results of the President in that state. If the theory of the “Kavanaugh Effect” is correct, these are the states in which we would expect it to have the greatest impact.
|Status||Estimated Senate Margin||Projected margin of the president||difference|
|Alabama||R + 7||R + 18||R + 11|
|Maine||D + 2||D + 12||D + 10|
|Montana||R + 3||R + 10||R + 7|
|Georgia*||R + 8||R + 2||D + 6|
|Texas||R + 10||R + 3||D + 6|
|Colorado||D + 4||D + 9||D + 5|
|Kansas||R + 7||R + 12||R + 5|
|Minnesota||D + 13||D + 8||R + 5|
|Arizona*||D + 6||D + 4||R + 2|
|Mississippi||R + 13||R + 12||D + 2|
|Georgia||R + 4||R + 2||D + 2|
|North Carolina||D + 3||D + 1||R + 2|
|New Mexico||D + 15||D + 13||R + 1|
|Iowa||R + 1||R + 3||R + 1|
|Alaska||R + 10||R + 8||D + 1|
|Michigan||D + 7||D + 8||D + 1|
|South carolina||R + 7||R + 8||R + 1|
The biggest gap between the Senate forecasted outcome and the President’s forecasted outcome is in Alabama, where Democratic Senator Doug Jones is only a minor underdog, despite the state being a conservative bastion. But the Supreme Court vacancy could take Jones to an even tougher place: Alabama is one of the nation’s anti-abortion statesSo it wouldn’t be surprising if the appointment of a real-life judge to the Supreme Court is a top priority for many voters there. And if Jones votes against Trump’s candidate (he has already said He believes the next president should choose Ginsburg’s replacement. This could really affect his re-election prospects.
The Supreme Court confirmatory battle could also make life difficult for Republican Senator Susan Collins, who is in a state (Maine) predicted riot race that will vote 12 points out of Biden. Collins ‘vote to confirm Kavanaugh in 2018 was already a major factor in shifting Collins’ image from a moderate to a more partisan personality. Therefore, a reminder of her Supreme Court vote results is unlikely to help her (especially since she needs some support from crossover Democrats to win re-election). Even so, Collins is one of the few Republican senators to have already done so against the occupation of Ginsburg’s seat before the election (although that didn’t stop her democratic opponent ding them on judicial appointments).
The Supreme Court question could too Help endangered Republican incumbents. For example, despite Trump’s predicted 10-point lead in Montana, Senator Steve Daines is just a small favorite over Democratic Governor Steve Bullock. Bullock ended the race thanks to personal popularity, but Daines is already trying Use the Supreme Court question to its advantage. Daines has now called for a vote on a new judiciary, saying Trump will “nominate the kind of justice Montanans want in the Supreme Court”. But he added, “If Joe Biden is elected, with the assistance of Steve Bullock, he will nominate a liberal activist who will threaten the way we live in Montana.”
However, there aren’t many other Senate seats where Republicans can benefit from deeper polarization of the partisans – Kansas and Minnesota are perhaps notable exceptions.
And maybe contrary to instinct, the polarization actually would advantage Democrats in the bright red states of Georgia (at least in the special elections) and Texas, where the presidential race is actually pretty close but the Senate races are not, which means Democrats have room for growth. After all, there is much speculation in South Carolina about how Supreme Court hearings could affect the re-election campaign of the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham. However, the safest answer might be, “You won’t.” The projected result of the Senate race is almost exactly the same as the projected result of the presidential race there, which means that voters do not cast their Senate votes taking into account the unique characteristics of Graham (or his Democratic opponent) – rather, they are only voting a straight- Ticket ballot.
All in all, if the theory that the Supreme Court struggle will increase the polarization of the partisans is correct, the Democrats will win in some races while the Republicans will win in other races. In particular, however, we were already expecting a repeat of what happened in 2016 – that every Senate seat would go exactly like the presidential race in that state. So it’s entirely possible that Ginsburg’s death doesn’t change the chances of Senate control that much.