Category Archives: U.S. Supreme Court

West Viginia Poll: The SCOTUS Effect

By Jim Ellis

July 23, 2018 — The Trafalgar Group surveyed the West Virginia US Senate campaign (July 13-16; 1,158 likely West Virginia general election voters) and tested — for what may be the first time any pollster has done so since President Trump officially nominated Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy — how the impending Supreme Court confirmation vote will affect a US Senate election.

Trafalgar’s initial ballot test response is consistent with other released polls regarding the race itself. That is, Sen. Joe Manchin (D) leads Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) 50-40 percent when the question is first posed. For the past month, all West Virginia surveys have delivered results in a similar range.

Polling chart courtesy Trafalgar Group

Polling chart courtesy Trafalgar Group. Click on the Trafalgar Group link or the graphic above to see more details.

However, the question also was asked of each individual respondent how he or she would would view the Senate race through the prism of whether or not Sen. Manchin would vote for or against confirming Judge Kavanaugh for the US Supreme Court. How much would the answer to that question sway a voter? The answer is: greatly.

At this point, the senator has not yet indicated how he will vote. Immediately after the nomination became public, Sen. Manchin stated that he wanted Judge Kavanaugh to complete the hearing process and publicly answer specific questions (Sen. Manchin is not a member of the Judiciary Committee).

According to Trafalgar, should he vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court, Sen. Manchin’s support within the electorate would substantially grow. However, if he opposes the judge, his campaign against Morrisey falls into the toss-up category.

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Supreme Politics

By Jim Ellis

July 11, 2018 — President Donald Trump’s choice of US Circuit Judge of the DC Court of Appeals Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will likely fundamentally change the 2018 Senate election cycle.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh at the White House, where President Trump nominated him to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. | C-SPAN

Judge Brett Kavanaugh speaks at the White House, where President Trump announced Monday that Kavanaugh would be his nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. | C-SPAN

With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) already publicly indicating that he is planning to keep the Senate working through August, the Supreme Court confirmation process now guarantees such will happen. With majority Republicans having leverage over the confirmation hearings and vote schedule, we can expect a great deal of politics will be accompanying the legal rhetoric that awaits us during the remaining summer months.

The Senate political map helps Judge Kavanaugh in his confirmation battle. Both sides will mount crushing pressure on those members perceived as swing votes, and the eventual targets will be backed into such a position where it will be impossible to avoid political damage once their eventual vote is cast. The three Democrats who supported Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch when he was confirmed on April 7, 2017 are:

  • Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
  • Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)

The three will naturally be the top targets for this confirmation battle, and there is a strong chance that each will also vote for Judge Kavanaugh. Already trapped in tough re-election battles, these senators will be hard-pressed by both sides pushing them to vote for or against Kavanaugh; but considering their respective states voted for President Trump in margins of 19 (IN), 36 (ND), and 43 (WV) percentage points suggests the density of pressure to support the nominee will overwhelm the opposition.

After last night’s announcement, Sen. Manchin issued a statement saying he is particularly interested about Judge Kavanaugh’s position on healthcare issues, especially those affecting people with pre-existing conditions as they relate to healthcare insurance coverage. Sen. Manchin says over 800,000 people in his state of West Virginia fall into this category.

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Justice Scalia and the Presidential Election; Latest South Carolina Polls

Feb. 16, 2016 — The sudden death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia over the weekend will have a major effect upon the 2016 presidential elections. Both sides will now emphasize base issues such as abortion and 2nd Amendment rights in order to energize their respective constituencies. The heightened political atmosphere could lead to the largest electoral turnout in United States history.

Expect the Supreme Court vacancy to dominate the political coverage for the rest of the year. The high court situation not only changes the open presidential campaign, but it puts new importance upon the US Senate campaigns because the Scalia replacement confirmation battle could possibly be delayed to 2017. Since neither party will have close to the 60 seats needed to invoke cloture, we can expect this contentious situation to be unresolved for months.

South Carolina

Two new polls were released over the weekend, from the American Research Group (Feb. 12-13; 400 likely South Carolina Republican primary voters) and CBS/YouGov (Feb. 10-12; 744 likely South Carolina Republican primary voters). GOP voters cast their ballots in the party-run primary this coming Saturday, Feb. 20, while their Democratic Party counterparts will vote a week later on Feb. 27.

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SCOTUS: Arizona Ruling Upholds Initiative

July 1, 2015 — The US Supreme Court released their long-awaited ruling on the Arizona redistricting case on Tuesday. In a common 5-4 decision, the high court allowed the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) to stand and, as a result, similar commissions in other multi-district states (California, New Jersey, Washington) have affirmed legitimacy. The practical result is that congressional districts in these aforementioned places will stay intact for the remainder of the decade.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority. Her final two sections illuminate the crux of the ruling (see below), that the initiative process allowing the voters to decide legislative issues is the major tenet of this case and not just the Arizona redistricting circumstance.

The Arizona Legislature brought the suit, and the SCOTUS decision affirmed that the body had legal standing to bring such action. Their argument was that the US Constitution gave exclusive power to the state legislature to redistrict post reapportionment.
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