The GOP gamble

With the death of Justice Scalia, the GOP has unanimously agreed to block President Obama’s SCOTUS nominee, no matter who he or she is.

Right now, most polls show that the front-runners for the presidency will make it a Clinton vs Trump race this November, although Trump vs Sanders is a distinct possibility. (Cruz or Rubio beat Clinton, only Rubio beats Sanders, but both Clinton opponents lie within the margin of error.) If last week’s polls are true, either would result in a Democrat presidency for the next 4 four years.That could also result coat-tail victories for a number of Senate and House seats. With the Senate as close as it is, it might even end up with a Democratic majority.

Both Clinton and Sanders profile to the left of 2016 Obama (though perhaps not left of 2008 Obama). Either could account for the next 1-4 SCOTUS appointments, leaving a decidedly left-leaning Supreme Court. As finely balanced as the Senate is, it could be filibuster city until a nominee arises that both parties can live with, probably someone who leans left, but has an independent or libertarian record.

It is believed that if the current Senate delays the appointment of Scalia’s replacement, that it could be 2 years before we have a full court. With the loss of the poster-child for the right, it leaves the court stronger on the left with a few wildcards in the middle. Is that what the Republicans really want? It also means that any rulings that are deadlocked revert to the District court rulings – up to eight of which are dominated by Obama appointments. The deadlocked rulings won’t affect Supreme Court presidents, so their wide relevance will have to wait until a case returns to SCOTUS for a definitive ruling.

At this point the GOP hold the balance of power. They can take their pick of Obama nominees, and while they don’t have a filibuster-proof majority, they can force the President to choose a nominee more to their liking, than they would against a new President wishing to stamp their personality on a new term, probably with a stronger minority or even a majority in the Senate.

The GOP will have only itself to blame, and I could see it fragmenting into 3-5 factions, while the Democrats, who are united, consolidate their power.

The fly in the ointment, however, is Michael Bloomberg. He is likely to run if there are two extreme candidates, either Trump or Cruz vs. Sanders. Bloomberg is likely to attract some Democrats, and in the only poll I’ve seen, tips the balance towards Trump against Clinton. In the same poll, oddly, his presence means Clinton beats Cruz or Rubio. With Sanders there, Sanders wins against all comers, although the numbers are quite similar. There are still 20% undecided, so that can all change.

Both Bloomberg and Trump are likely to pick more moderate nominees than Rubio or Cruz. I can’t really gauge Kasich. He’s remained above the fray and the pundits seem to have written him off. He’s probably the only Republican that most Democrats can stomach, but he’s 10% behind Clinton and 20% behind Sanders.

Wouldn’t the GOP do better to play the odds and work with the enemy they know from a position of strength, rather than leave it to chance and possibly lose the long game?

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