As you know, Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia recently died. Here’s what we know.
1. He seemed healthy(ish) that day.
2. He was discovered with a pillow over his head.
3. No autopsy was done. He was declared dead by telephone.
4. There is no chance of President Obama getting the Senate to approve a replacement this year.
5. The next president will appoint Scalia’s replacement.
6. The Scalia replacement will tip the court 5-4 in whichever direction the sitting president chooses. This is gigantic.
7. The issue of Supreme Court nominations went from rarely mentioned in this election (it seemed) to the main topic, and it will stay that way all year.
8. The person who gains the most from Scalia’s death is Hillary Clinton, assuming she gets the nomination. This changes the debate from server scandals, bad Iraqi war decisions, and her marriage, to a topic where she is strong.
9. Enemies of the Clintons have, in the past, accused them of killing people for political gain. Let’s label those accusations conspiracy theories.
Science tells us that people are more motivated by fear of losing than the prospect of gaining something new. Clinton supporters will fear losing court-driven gains for women and minorities. Republicans will be driven by a more general incentive to have a conservative court and maybe someday pick away at abortion rights. Conservative incentives are probably not equal in power to the fear that Clinton’s supporters experience when they think about what they could lose. I think the opening in the Supreme Court will motivate Democrats more than Republicans.
If we are talking about ISIS, immigration, trade policies, and the economy, the spotlight swings automatically to Trump. But changing the focus to domestic issues and the Supreme Court plays to Clinton’s strength in the campaign. Advantage: Clinton.