The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is only the latest event to shake up the 2020 election. Within moments of the announcement of her passing, speculation ran rampant on how this suddenly open seat could affect the presidential race and the battle for the Senate majority.
One aspect of this process that has flown under the radar, however, is the eventual nominee’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Given the circumstances, this event will be held under the bright spotlight of a huge national audience.
After all, we’ve never had a Supreme Court nomination hearing so close to an election. Furthermore, there are eight members of the Judiciary Committee set to be on the ballot this November. Collectively their actions could shift multiple Senate races and even the Presidential contest.
Of course the most prominent Committee member is Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris. The Senator has already made a name for herself as a tough questioner, but her role would extend well beyond that.
She would effectively become the representative of both the Biden campaign and the Democratic Party. This would be a rather ironic twist of fate as Harris, the most junior Democrat on the committee, would be taking that mantle from Ranking Member Diane Feinstein, her senior colleague from California.
It’s quite possible that Harris’ presentation at this hearing will be as important as her performance at the Vice Presidential debate.
Meanwhile, the Trump team will have its own representative in the form of Chairman Lindsey Graham. Graham already has quite a complex relationship with Trump, which is set to be tested like never before. Graham’s hopes for re-election are in danger, with a recent Quinnipiac Poll showing him tied with opponent Jamie Harrison.
The South Carolinian has a flair for the dramatic, his memorable rant was seen as a turning point in the Kavanaugh hearings, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that his career depends on this performance.
Graham isn’t the only Republican on the committee fighting for another term either. Freshmen Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Joni Ernst of Iowa are each locked in their own highly competitive battles.
Tillis has consistently trailed in the polls and Ernst was behind in the latest Des Moines Register/Selzer survey, the gold standard in Iowa. These contests are also the two most expensive in the country thus far and may well determine which party wins the majority.
There are four other Committee members running for re-election in relatively safe races. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin is one as is Cory Booker. Even more so than Harris and Graham, Booker is the most likely to seek out a viral moment to top his Spartacus proclamation from the Kavanaugh hearing.
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse is one of the more outspoken Republican critics of Donald Trump, so it’s worth keeping an eye on him as well. Finally, Delaware’s Chris Coons is also a bit of a wild card. He facilitated a deal with Jeff Flake that temporarily stalled the Kavanaugh nomination. Sen. Coons is a close friend of Joe Biden’s and may well be involved in coordinating a common strategy with the campaign, Harris and party leadership.
To recap, here’s everything that will be on the line during this hearing: a Supreme Court seat, a Vice Presidential candidacy, three Senate seats, majority control of the Senate, and the 2020 Presidential election. So just your average can’t-miss TV event/historical inflection point.
Nick Field (@nick_field90) is a Contributor to Decision Desk HQ