In the latter group—which includes North Carolina, Iowa, and Montana—voters are much more closely divided on abortion and, in some cases, lean toward the GOP. A confirmation fight focused on abortion is also likely to further diminish Democratic Senator Doug Jones’s already modest reelection chances in Alabama, a state with a clear anti-abortion majority.
By contrast, the prospect that another Trump Supreme Court nominee could vote to overturn the ACA and its popular protections for those with preexisting conditions may create a broader set of opportunities for Democrats. Support for those protections is more consistent across party and regional lines than attitudes about abortion. And Democrats, as in 2018, have already invested heavily in ads reminding voters that all of the GOP incumbents (except Maine’s Susan Collins) moved to eliminate those provisions when they voted to repeal the ACA in 2017.
Read: Is this really the end of abortion?
“The president is in such a rush [to fill the seat], because he’s in a hurry to overturn the Affordable Care Act,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, referring to a Supreme Court hearing scheduled just days after the election on a Republican lawsuit to overturn the ACA.
Trump “wants to get a justice in there in time for that so they can hear the arguments and vote on it. People have to know what this means to them,” continued Pelosi, who spoke with Goldberg this week at the virtual Atlantic Festival. “And what it means to 150 million families in America is that no longer will they have the protection of the Affordable Care Act when it comes to a preexisting medical condition.”
Likewise, when asked yesterday about Amy Coney Barrett, one of the leading contenders for the open Court spot, Biden immediately zeroed in on what a new justice would mean for health care—even though Barrett is considered the most likely of Trump’s potential picks to vote to ban abortion. “I think we should focus on what this is going to mean for health care, what it’s going to mean to once again have to say if you’re pregnant [that] it’s a preexisting condition, to be able to charge women more for the same procedure as men. It’s wrong,” Biden told reporters.
Historically, conventional wisdom in both parties has been that fights over the Supreme Court energize Republican voters more than Democratic ones. But operatives say the incredible surge of grassroots donations to Democratic candidates since Ginsburg’s death suggests that any GOP advantage on the issue has evaporated. As a result, most operatives I’ve spoken with aren’t expecting the confirmation fight to dramatically change the landscape in a year when the electorate’s divisions have been so deep and durable. “I have been saying for probably a year now that it will probably be record turnout since women got the right to vote,” says Glen Bolger, a longtime Republican pollster. “Does this increase that? I don’t know. Who said, ‘I’m not voting—oh, there’s a Supreme Court opening? Yeah, I’m voting.’ If you are still on the couch, I don’t know that this is the thing that gets you off it. I don’t know if anything does at this point.”