Waiting for President Donald Trump to speak at a campaign rally in North Carolina on Saturday, Paulette Fittshur was quick to express her sympathy for the family of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Still, she viewed Ginsburg’s passing as divine providence.
As news of Ginsburg’s death reverberated throughout the country, supporters of Trump and his opponent in the Nov. 3 election, Democrat Joe Biden, were adjusting to a presidential race that had suddenly been reframed around a Supreme Court vacancy. For Republicans like Fittshur, the open seat on the high court presents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to abolish the constitutional right to abortion. For Democrats, it was a new, urgent reason to vote Trump out of office in a year already marked by a pandemic, economic upheaval and protests over racial injustice.
Women voters have long been viewed as the key to the election, and the coming fight over the Supreme Court gives both Trump and Biden fresh ammunition to make their cases to the small pool of undecided women that could make a difference in battlegrounds states such as North Carolina, Minnesota and elsewhere. Both campaigns began fundraising over the Supreme Court vacancy on Saturday, less than 24 hours after Ginsburg’s death from pancreatic cancer. The loss of the longtime liberal icon leaves the high court split between five conservatives and just three liberals.
Trump has said he will likely announce a nominee this week, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to push for a quick confirmation, perhaps before the election. It remains unclear, however, whether Republicans will have the necessary majority to move forward on any nomination. But Republicans were newly energized, as well. The vacancy could afford them a chance to sway women voters who may have been leaning toward Biden, said Penny Nance, a conservative activist and president of Concerned Women for America.