For several months, Joseph R. Biden Jr. condemned President Trump as a failed steward of the nation’s well – being and has relentlessly framed the 2020 election as a referendum on the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, faced with a moment that many believe will offset the 2020 election – justice for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and the prospect of a bitter confirmation battle for the Supreme Court – Mr Biden’s campaign is holding on to what it believes is a winning strategy. Campaign helpers said Saturday that they would try to link the vacancy in the court to the health crisis plaguing the country and the health care of the future in America.
Arguments in a common case that could determine the future of the health law are set for a week after election day, with the administration supporting a Republican effort to overthrow it. Mr. Biden will accuse the president, as he has already done, of trying to remove protection from pre-existing conditions during a pandemic, aides said, as the effort was lifted by a Supreme Court that is now briefly one of the liberal judges who previously had voted to keep the law in place.
Despite the confidence of the Biden team, the prospect of Mr Trump appointing a third justice to the Supreme Court in his first term injects a very unstable element in the race just six weeks before the election. Court battles have long been seen as a greater motivation for Republican voters than for Democrats, though the record sums of money flowing into Democratic campaigns in the hours after Judge Ginsburg’s death gave progressive hope that they might be just as energetic this time around.
Still, officials from the Biden campaign on Saturday said they did not even see a vacancy for the Supreme Court and the passions it will inevitably ignite as a basis for fundamentally reorganizing the campaign’s approach. Mr. Biden has consistently led the president nationally and in battles of battlefield states over the summer.
For Democrats, the focus on health care – deliberate by the pandemic – is a rebroadcast of the successful playbook that helped power the party’s takeover of the House of Representatives in 2018 and a fidelity to Mr. Biden’s steadfast promise to defend Obamacare, a promise to help him navigate through the primary price in 2020.
“This is a choice between a court that will defend your health care and remove your health care,” said Heidi Heitkamp, a former Democratic senator from North Dakota who lost in 2018 after voting against Trump’s last Supreme Court candidate, Brett M. Kavanaugh.
“The winds are blowing on Obamacare,” she said, linking the future of the law to the coronavirus crisis. “The pandemic is about healthcare. So it’s a continuation of a discussion about health care and who is the candidate who most likely protects you and your health care. ”
The Biden campaign could also still take advantage of the uncertain future of abortion rights to mobilize younger voters and raise the ghost of a Supreme Court tilted towards a Conservative majority between 6 and 3.
“If you want anything to fire young people who were not so interested this year, this is it,” said John Anzalone, a pollster for Mr. Biden, noting that his research suggested that even apolitical young voters embraced abortion policy. . “They know Roe v. Wade.”
Sir. Biden quickly called on Friday for the Senate to stop any recommendation to the Supreme Court before the election, and the Senate Democrats crouched down on a conference call Saturday afternoon to plan their way forward. Sir. Trump on Saturday promised to go ahead “without delay” and said his candidate would be a woman and that he would announce his election next week. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has promised that there will be a vote on the floor.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, urged his Democratic colleagues to communicate the real-world efforts of a conservative-dominated court and urged them to make the case that another Trump election would jeopardize health care law.
“Health care, protection against pre-existing conditions, women’s rights, gay rights, labor rights, labor rights, voting rights, civil rights, climate change and so much more are at stake,” Schumer told his colleagues, according to a person on the call.
Sir. Biden and Mr Schumer were scheduled to speak late in the day. Mr. Biden himself had no planned events on Saturday and was expected to spend part of next week preparing for the first debate, which will be held on 29 September.
Mr. Biden – who has promised to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court – was not expected to move to announce his own list of possible choices before election day, as Mr Trump did recently. In a statement, Biden’s campaigner said the former vice president would not “play politics on this, as Donald Trump has done.”
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a leader of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, agreed with this approach. “It’s less about motivating people around a particular individual to be named to that court,” she said in an interview. “I think we are very motivated to just ensure that vacancies are protected and retained for the next president.”
“Right now,” she said of naming names, “the costs outweigh the benefits.”
The Biden campaign will have an unusually direct role in the confirmation battle through Senator Kamala Harris of California, Mr. Biden’s running mate, who stopped at the Supreme Court step on Saturday morning. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ms. Harris will serve as interrogator for the person appointed by Mr. Trump. She has already excelled in this role in some notable confrontations with former Trump nominees, including both his attorneys general.
Sir. Biden’s advisers and allies believe that the political environment in the country has turned years of traditional wisdom that the court is fighting better, mobilizing conservatives than progressives. Democratic strategists said Mr McConnell’s decision in 2016 to block President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland; the election of Mr. Trump; and clarification of court rulings on important issues involving immigration, gay rights and abortion had reversed that dynamic.
“Democrats should not approach this from a defensive stance,” said Guy Cecil, the leader of one of the party’s largest super-PACs, Priorities USA, noting that internal voting showed the court as the biggest motivating issue after a defeat. for Mr. Trump. “Our goal of stopping this nomination and winning the election is in line.”
Democratic donors poured unprecedented amounts of money into campaigns and causes in the hours after Justice Ginsburg’s death was announced, donating about $ 80 million online in the first 24 hours.
A promised institutionalist and former chairman of the judiciary itself, Mr. Biden won the Democratic primary campaign in part by ignoring some of the top voices on the left.
Just last week, the former vice president of a CNN town hall predicted that there would be “somewhere between six and eight Republicans ready to get things done” when Mr. Trump is gone. His instincts and his propensity to reach beyond the aisle, which has been looted by many on the left as naive in this era of hyperpolarized politics, will be severely stress tested with the looming struggle for confirmation.
Some progressive groups are already running a press campaign against the Democratic Party and Mr. Bid to embrace the addition of new judges to the court as a countermeasure in 2021, provided the party takes control of the White House and Senate in November.
Maurice Mitchell, the national director of the Working Families Party, urged Mr. Bite to say he “would stop at nothing” to prevent a “hyperconservative court.”
“People eventually want a fighter,” he said. “And this is an opportunity to demonstrate the struggle he has within himself.”
Mr. Biden has previously said he opposes court package. “We will live to mourn that day,” he said last year.
Other Democrats called on Mr. Biden to draw on his decades of relationships and experience as a senator and vice president to navigate the final, full weeks of the campaign during a Supreme Court battle and overcome his opponent.
“This is the time for all his life experience, his knowledge, his relationship to come together on how to strategically navigate this nomination process,” said Leah D. Daughtry, a veteran Democratic strategist. “How hard he fights, how smart his surgery is when we review the last 40 days.”
Jonathan Martin, Rebecca R. Ruiz and Glenn Thrush contributed reporting.