Here’s what you need to know:President Trump spoke to the news media about the Supreme Court on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday.Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times
President Trump said on Saturday that he expected to nominate a candidate to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court next week, and that his selection would “most likely” be a woman.
The remarks were Mr. Trump’s first public comments since a statement of admiration for Justice Ginsburg, who died Friday, apart from a tweet Saturday in which Mr. Trump said he had an “obligation, without delay” to select a replacement.
Responding to the news that Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, had said that the Senate should not vote on a nominee before the November election, Mr. Trump replied: “I totally disagree with her, we have an obligation. We won. And we have an obligation as the winners to pick who we want.”
Mr. Trump was headed to Fayetteville, N.C., for a campaign rally set to begin at 6:30 p.m.
He faces a tight race in North Carolina, which he carried by three points in 2016 but where several recent polls have shown former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with a slight edge in the presidential contest.
He also hopes to boost the state’s junior senator, Thom Tillis, one of his party’s most vulnerable Senate incumbents and a reliable ally. A series of recent polls have put Mr. Tillis a few points behind his Democratic challenger, Cal Cunningham, a former state senator and Iraq War veteran.
People visited a memorial set up outside the Supreme Court on Saturday. The death on Friday of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg immediately led to questions about how Republican senators would proceed.Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times
The fight over Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court has profound implications for the entire country. But its outcome depends on the personal and political calculations currently being made by a handful of Capitol Hill Republicans who have been bruised, buoyed and bullied by President Trump over the years.
And of that group, this is a Gang of 7 to keep a special eye on in the coming days (more on them below):
Senator Susan Collins of Maine
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado
Senator Mitt Romney of Utah
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee
Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa
Here’s the big picture first:
Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, who has proudly rammed through dozens of Mr. Trump’s appointments to the federal bench, played to type on Friday, saying it was his intention to schedule a vote on the president’s as-yet unnamed pick. Mr. Trump followed up on Saturday, exhorting fence-sitters in the Republican conference to act “without delay.”
But behind the scenes, their front was less unified.
Mr. McConnell is far less enthusiastic about the political implications of an ugly nomination battle during the final weeks of a presidential campaign, according to two Republicans who are close to the leader. And his public statement made no mention of the precise timing of a floor vote, or whether he would call one if he did not have the votes to win.
Mr. McConnell’s control of the majority rests, in large measure, on the fates of three imperiled incumbents on the ballot in November — Ms. Collins, Mr. Gardner and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Late Friday, Mr. McConnell counseled his members to keep their “powder dry” before they convened to discuss matters. Most gladly complied.
Republicans currently hold a 53 to 47 seat advantage over Democrats in the upper chamber. Four Republicans would have to defect in order to overcome Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote and block a potential nominee.
Ms. Collins, who is trailing her Democratic opponent, Sara Gideon, in most recent polls, argued in a statement on Saturday that President Trump had the power to nominate a Supreme Court nominee, but the Senate should not hold a confirmation vote before the November election.
Ms. Murkowski, a frequent critic of the president’s who is, at the moment, unassailably popular in her home state, said Friday she opposed holding a vote before the election. But she made the remarks, in an interview with Alaska Public Media, before Justice Ginsburg’s death was announced, and she didn’t address the confirmation process in a Friday night statement mourning her death.
Mr. Tillis, who is banking on a strategy of maximizing turnout among Mr. Trump’s supporters, seized on the fight like a runner grabbing an energy drink, backing the pre-election approach as a way to keep “radical, left-wing” Biden appointees off the bench. Three other incumbents in tight re-election fights — Martha McSally of Arizona, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and Joni Ernst of Iowa — also expressed support for Mr. McConnell’s plan.
But Mr. Gardner, who has questioned election-year confirmation votes in the past, laid low, as did Mr. Grassley.
Mr. Graham, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which would oversee the confirmation process, said Saturday that he would support “any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg,” directly contradicting remarks he made in 2016, when he said he would oppose any effort to fill a Supreme Court vacancy during a presidential election year.
Then there’s Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the party’s 2012 nominee and the most outspoken Republican critic of Mr. Trump in the Senate. An aide to Mr. Romney, reached on Saturday, had no immediate comment on the matter. But Stuart Stevens, a top adviser to Mr. Romney’s 2012 campaign who remains close to him, blasted the president’s plan on Twitter, suggesting it would lead to a backlash that would “end” Republican control of the Senate.
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, is considered a swing vote and is facing a tough challenge from Sara Gideon, her Democratic opponent.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said on Saturday that she was opposed to holding a vote on President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee before the November election, and suggested that were he to lose, his successor should ultimately choose a nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The statement from Ms. Collins, who is considered a swing vote and is facing a bruising re-election fight, narrowed the already slim margin in the Senate in favor of confirming a Supreme Court nominee less than two months before Election Day, complicating the task of Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, who has promised a vote.
It made her the first Republican senator to explicitly say, in the aftermath of Justice Ginsburg’s death, that she would not support such a vote before Nov. 3. Mr. McConnell can afford to lose no more than three Republicans.
“President Trump has the constitutional authority to make a nomination to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, and I would have no objection to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s beginning the process of reviewing his nominee’s credentials,” Ms. Collins said.
But she suggested that if former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the presidency, she would oppose moving forward with a nominee chosen by Mr. Trump.
“In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the president or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the President who is elected on November 3rd,” Ms. Collins said.
It was a carefully calibrated statement from Ms. Collins, who is entangled in the toughest race of her political career in part because she cast a decisive vote to confirm Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in 2018.
In an apparent reference to 2016, when she was one of only two Republicans who opposed Mr. McConnell’s move to blockade President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, Ms. Collins warned that, “we must act fairly and consistently— no matter which political party is in power.”
Senator Lindsey Graham is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which would oversee the hearings on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s successor.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said Saturday that he would support “any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg,” directly contradicting remarks he made in 2016, when he said he would oppose any effort to fill a Supreme Court vacancy during a presidential election year.
Mr. Graham, a loyal Trump ally who is locked in a tight race against Jaime Harrison in South Carolina, cited the Democrats’ decision to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for most judicial nominees in 2013 as a reason he had changed his position. He also argued that “Chuck Schumer and his friends in the liberal media conspired to destroy the life of Brett Kavanaugh and hold that Supreme Court seat open.”
It was a stark departure from his previous assertions, which began in 2016 and continued into 2018, long after Senate Democrats eliminated the filibuster for judicial nominees and even after most of the hearings to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court had taken place.
“I want you to use my words against me,” Mr. Graham said in 2016. “If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”
In 2018, days before Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in, Mr. Graham said again, “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term and the primary process has started, we will wait to the next election.”
But Mr. Graham, who oversees the Senate Judiciary Committee and will preside over any confirmation hearing, has long been a devoted ally of the president and is suddenly entangled in a re-election campaign that is more contested than originally expected. Placing another conservative nominee on a lifetime seat on the nation’s court is likely to further galvanize his Republican base.
“Jaime Harrison will be a loyal foot soldier in the cause of the radical liberals to destroy America as we know it,” Mr. Graham said of his Democratic opponent, who experienced a surge in fund-raising this past week after a poll showed him tied with Mr. Graham. “As to me — I will be part of the Resistance and oppose their radical liberal agenda as they try to fundamentally change America.”
Mr. Harrison responded on Twitter on Saturday, saying Mr. Graham had proved his “word is worthless.”
“When people show you who they are, believe them,” he said. “Lindsey Graham has shown us that he’s running for political power.”
All 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee urged Mr. Graham to delay holding confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court vacancy until after the inauguration of the next president.
“In light of the vacancy created by Justice Ginsburg’s death, we call upon you to state unequivocally and publicly that you will not consider any nominee to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat until after the next President is inaugurated,” the senators said in the letter to Mr. Graham.
“There cannot be one set of rules for a Republican President and one set for a Democratic President,” the senators wrote, “and considering a nominee before the next inauguration would be wholly inappropriate.”
Justice Ginsburg Is Mourned on the Supreme Court StepsIn the hours following Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, people gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court to honor her life and legacy.
“She was an inspiration to so many, so many people. And she fought through this illness and she’s my hero.” “She was the moral beacon when America felt lost. And I firmly believe that we would not be where we are today without her. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she served our country spectacularly and, just in shock that she’s gone.” “She led an amazing life. What else can you say? She was an amazing woman. Whether you agreed or not, she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life.” “Tonight, and in the coming days, we should focus on the loss of the justice and her enduring legacy. But there is no doubt, let me be clear, that the voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider.”
In the hours following Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, people gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court to honor her life and legacy.CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times
A record-setting flood of donations poured into Democratic campaigns and causes since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death was announced: More than $60 million had been processed through ActBlue, the Democratic donation processing site, as of Saturday afternoon.
Democratic donors gave more money online in the 9 p.m. hour Friday — $6.2 million — than in any other single hour since ActBlue was started 16 years ago.
Then donors broke the site’s record again in the 10 p.m. hour when donors gave another $6.3 million — more than $100,000 per minute.
The unprecedented outpouring shows the power of a looming Supreme Court confirmation fight to motivate Democratic donors. The previous biggest hour, on Aug. 20, when Joseph R. Biden Jr. spoke on the final night of the Democratic convention, saw $4.3 million in donations processed, according to an ActBlue spokesperson.
Republicans also quickly sought to capitalize on the looming political battle. On Saturday afternoon, the Trump campaign sent out a text to its supporters, saying “Pres. Trump will fill the Supreme Court Vacancy with a conservative justice” with a link to a campaign donation page.
WinRed, the fund-raising platform used by President Trump’s campaign as well as many Republicans up and down the ballot, does not keep a running public accounting of donations like ActBlue, so the total donations raised by Republicans was not immediately available. Requests for information from WinRed were not immediately returned.
ActBlue does not show where donations go in real time but much of the grass roots energy appeared focused on the Senate, which would have the power to confirm or block any nominee picked by President Trump.
Hours after Justice Ginsburg’s death, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, pledged that whomever Mr. Trump picked to replace her would receive a confirmation vote. “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” he said in a statement.
Democratic donors flooded into at least one page dedicated to key Senate races, called Get Mitch or Die Trying. The page, created by the progressive group Crooked Media, had raised about $9 million in new donations since Justice Ginsburg’s death was announced, as of noon on Saturday, and will divide the proceeds between 13 different Democrats running for Senate this year.
“The conventional wisdom is that the Supreme Court only motivates Republicans, but these fund-raising totals demonstrate that that has changed,” said Tommy Vietor, a founder of Crooked Media and a veteran of the Obama administration.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sent a tweet on Saturday directing users to its “Flip the Senate” page fund-raising page. “The stakes have never been higher,” the tweet said. “The future of the Supreme Court is on the line. Join us in this fight.”
Another ActBlue page directed donations to be split among the campaigns of seven Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents. When shared on social media, the page loads with a logo of Justice Ginsburg’s famed collar at the top.
As money poured into Democratic coffers, nonprofit groups on both sides of the fight pledged to spend millions in an attempt to sway both public opinion and put pressure on senators ahead of a potential nomination battle.
Demand Justice, a group led by the longtime Democratic aide Brian Fallon, pledged to spend $10 million “to fight to ensure no justice is confirmed before the January inauguration.”
The Judicial Crisis Network, a group that has long pressed for conservative jurists for the court, said they planned to match any Democratic efforts. “We will match their $10 million and whatever it takes,” said Carrie Severino, the group’s president.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said during a call with Senate Democrats that “everything Americans value is at stake.”Credit…Michael A. McCoy for The New York Times
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, told his caucus on Saturday that “nothing is off the table for next year” if Republicans pushed through a Supreme Court nomination in the coming weeks, signaling that a Senate Democratic majority could be open to forcing drastic changes to the Senate institution and the Supreme Court.
With Republicans in control of the Senate, Democrats have few tools at their disposal to block a simple majority vote on a Supreme Court nomination to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But Mr. Schumer indicated that Democrats would instead look to retaliate with institutional changes if they flipped the Senate in November.
“Our number one goal must be to communicate the stakes of this Supreme Court fight to the American people,” Mr. Schumer said, according to a Democrat on the call, who disclosed details of a private conversation on condition of anonymity. “Everything Americans value is at stake.
“Health care, protections for pre-existing conditions, women’s rights, gay rights, workers’ rights, labor rights, voting rights, civil rights, climate change, and so much else is at risk.”
Canvassers with Mi Familia Vota collected voter registrations in Las Vegas this month.Credit…Bridget Bennett for The New York Times
As campaigns prepare for an increasingly contentious election in November, with the Supreme Court on the ballot once again, voter registration efforts from both parties are sure to ramp up. In more than a dozen battleground states and across the country, deadlines to register are coming up in October, but almost half of states have same-day voter registration up until Election Day.
Here are the deadlines for each state.
In battleground states
Oct. 5: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Texas
Oct. 19: Pennsylvania
Oct. 23: Nebraska
Oct. 30: Wisconsin
Oct. 31: North Carolina*
Same-day voter registration on Nov. 3, Election Day: Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and New Hampshire
In other states
Oct. 4: Alaska, Rhode Island
Oct. 5: Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee
Oct. 6: Missouri
Oct. 9: New York, Oklahoma
Oct. 10: Delaware
Oct. 13: Kansas, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, West Virginia
The Coming Pandemic Documentary
Oct. 19: Alabama, South Dakota
Oct. 24: Massachusetts
Oct. 31: New Mexico
Same-day voter registration on Nov. 3, Election Day: California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Montana, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming
*North Carolina has same-day voter registration, but only during early voting.
Amy McGrath, the Democratic challenger to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, said he was “contradicting his stance on filling vacancies” by supporting a floor vote.Credit…Bryan Woolston/Associated Press
In the titanic political battle over a Supreme Court vacancy that is sure to upend the general election, numerous Democratic challengers all offered a clear and cohesive stance: any nomination should wait until after the presidential election.
In North Carolina, Cal Cunningham, the Democratic challenger, is locked in a close race with Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican. On Saturday, Mr. Cunningham noted that early voting had already started in the election, and was cause enough to hold back any nomination votes.
“North Carolinians are already voting and will continue to do so in the coming weeks,” Mr. Cunningham wrote on Facebook. “They deserve that opportunity to have their voices heard, and then, it should be up to the next President and next Senate to fill the vacancy on our Court.”
His opponent, Mr. Tillis, had released a statement early on Saturday saying he would back a nomination vote. A recent poll by The New York Times found Mr. Cunningham with a five-point lead over Mr. Tillis.
In Iowa, Theresa Greenfield, the Democratic challenger to Senator Joni Ernst, also called on the Senate to wait until after the election, noting the cases currently pending before the court.
“The next Supreme Court Justice will have power over our access to health care, protections for pre-existing conditions, workers’ rights, and the rules of our democracy for the rest of their lives,” Ms. Greenfield said in a statement. “The only way to truly respect our independent voices in Iowa is by waiting to fill this seat until the next U.S. Senate and President we’re about to vote for take office.”
Ms. Ernst indicated earlier this year that she would support any nomination hearings were a vacancy to open up during the final year of Mr. Trump’s first term.
Sara Gideon, the Democratic challenger currently holding a slight lead over Senator Susan Collins in Maine, also called for the nomination vote to be held after the election.
“Access to health care — including protections for pre-existing conditions — civil rights, reproductive rights and so much more are at stake,” she said on Twitter. “Mainers & Americans should have their voices heard, and the vacancy on the Supreme Court should be filled by the next President and Senate.”
Ms. Collins on Saturday became the first Republican senator to take an official position after Justice Ginsburg’s death against moving forward with a floor vote.
In Kentucky, Amy McGrath, the Democratic challenger to Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, lamented in a statement the quick “pouncing on the death of a patriot for political purposes” and noted that Mr. McConnell was “contradicting his stance on filling vacancies” by supporting a floor vote.
“I’ll save the political rhetoric for another day,” she wrote on Twitter. “But I want Kentuckians to know: if the “McConnell Rule” was good enough in 2016, it should be good enough in 2020, and I will fight him every step of the way on this.”
On Saturday afternoon, more than 100 protesters had gathered outside Mr. McConnell’s Louisville home, chanting “vote him out.”
In Georgia, Jon Ossoff, the Democratic challenger facing Senator David Purdue, pointed to the lawsuit before the Supreme Court regarding the Affordable Care Act and called for the nomination to come after the election.
“For the sake of millions whose health care is at risk, with so much more on the line, with voting already underway: The people must speak at the ballot box first,” Mr. Ossoff said on Twitter. “Then let the Court reflect the will of our newly elected President and Senate.”
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also put out a statement and a fund-raising page with a focus on the Supreme Court.
“The stakes have never been higher,” the group wrote on Twitter. “The future of the Supreme Court is on the line.”
Demonstrators Assemble Outside McConnell’s HouseProtesters rallied outside the home of Senator Mitch McConnell, after he said he would move forward with President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, reversing his 2016 position.
[chanting] “Hey, hey, ho, ho! Mitch McConnell has got to go! Hey, hey, ho, ho! Mitch McConnell has got to go! Hey, hey, ho, ho!” [chanting] “Vote him out!” [honking, cheering, sounds of protest] [chanting] “R-B-G!” [chanting] “Vote him out!”
Protesters rallied outside the home of Senator Mitch McConnell, after he said he would move forward with President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, reversing his 2016 position.CreditCredit…Jon Cherry/Getty ImagesJoseph R. Biden Jr. rejected calls for expanding the size of the Supreme Court during the Democratic primary and has given little indication that he has embraced the idea in recent months.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Shaken by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, progressive groups and activist leaders are pressing Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, to lead the party’s pushback against any attempts from President Trump and Republicans to seize the moment and fill her seat on the Supreme Court.
On Saturday morning, just 12 hours after her death was announced, groups on the party’s left had settled into a holding pattern — to see what Republicans will do in Congress and what the next steps might be from Mr. Biden’s campaign.
Some revived calls to add more justices to the bench in an attempt to nullify what they feel was a seat stolen by Republicans in 2016.
But most groups, understanding Mr. Biden’s commitment to traditionalism and moderation, said his best role would be as resister-in-chief, pressuring Republicans to stick with previous commitments to not appoint a Supreme Court justice during an election year.
With that in mind, four liberal groups — People For the American Way, Alliance for Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the National Women’s Law Center — scheduled a press call for Saturday afternoon on the topic of how to pressure Republicans going forward.
Mondaire Jones, a progressive Democratic nominee to a New York House seat who is likely to win in November, said in a statement that expanding the court was an idea that Democrats should embrace.
“We must expand the Supreme Court to 13 seats, and allow President Biden to fill those vacancies,” Mr. Jones said. “If we sit back and watch as another seat on the Supreme Court is stolen from us, we resign ourselves to a generation’s worth of defeat at the hands of six people installed by a right-wing, minoritarian government. We owe it to ourselves and to the American people to fight that looming doomsday scenario with every tool at our disposal.”
For his part, Mr. Biden rejected calls for expanding the court during the Democratic primary, and has given little indication that he has embraced the idea in recent months. Still, progressives are trying to hold the line, pushing for bigger reforms even as moderate Democrats like Mr. Biden may reject them.
In the short term, each side is focused on applying public pressure to conservatives — particularly vulnerable Republican senators such as Martha McSally of Arizona, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Heather McGhee, the former president of Demos and a progressive leader, said the best actions for left-leaning Democrats right now was to target the Senate and push the next administration to embrace its ideals.
“In 2021, we will fix the democracy the G.O.P. has broken: a modern, expanded court, an end to the Jim Crow relic filibuster, a right-to-vote constitutional amendment and statehood,” she said, calling for statehood for the District of Columbia and the right to self-determination for Puerto Rico. “First stop: flip the Senate.”
Mark Kelly, the Democratic Senate candidate in Arizona, has been ahead of Senator Martha McSally, a Republican, in recent polls.Credit…Conor E. Ralph for The New York Times
Democrats have almost no power to stop a pre-election vote on President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, but they see a glimmer of hope in a bank-shot scenario if they capture a Senate seat in Arizona.
If Mark Kelly, the Democratic nominee — who leads Senator Martha McSally, a Republican, by 8 points in a recent New York Times/Siena College poll — wins, he could be seated in the Senate as early as Nov. 30.
Then come the ifs. If the Arizona results can be rapidly certified, if Senate Republicans hold a floor vote in the postelection lame-duck session, and if three Republicans defect, Mr. Kelly could, theoretically, cast the deciding vote to defeat Mr. Trump’s as-yet unnamed pick to the high court.
Such a scenario is possible (if not probable) because Ms. McSally, who was sworn in in 2019, was appointed, not elected. The Arizona Senate race this year is a special election, and under state law the winner can be seated pending a final review of the election results, known as a canvass, completed at the end of November.
“I think it’s clear that should Mr. Kelly win that seat, he would take office upon the canvass,” said Timothy La Sota, the former general counsel for the Arizona Republican Party.
Lawyers said the process could be slowed by findings of significant irregularities, or lawsuits; There are also a few procedural choke points.
Still, state officials from both parties said they would do nothing to slow down the process of seating the winner as quickly as possible, no matter who wins.
“We’d given this no thought prior to yesterday’s news,” said Daniel Scarpinato, chief of staff to Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican who supports Mr. Trump. “At first blush, it appears we have a limited role. But we are going to research the law and we are going to follow it.”
Mr. Kelly has not yet commented on Mr. Trump’s intention to ram through a nomination before the election, but Democrats close to him say he is opposed to it.
By contrast, Ms. McSally quickly announced on Friday that she backed a plan by Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, to force a floor vote on a nominee while Mr. Trump is president.
At 8:49 p.m., she tweeted out her condolences to Justice Ginsburg’s family. Fifteen minutes later, she wrote, “This U.S. Senate should vote on President Trump’s next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.”
In 2016 and 2018, many analysts concluded that Supreme Court politics helped Republicans by helping to energize or consolidate conservative voters.
True or not, it certainly wasn’t obvious ahead of time which side would benefit from a court vacancy, and the same can be said today, in the aftermath of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There’s no way to know exactly what will unfold, but a closer look at recent polls, including new New York Times/Siena College surveys, does provide reason to think that Joseph R. Biden Jr. might have as much — or more — upside on the issue than President Trump.
In Times/Siena polls of Maine, North Carolina and Arizona released Friday, voters preferred Mr. Biden to select the next Supreme Court justice by 12 percentage points, 53 percent to 41 percent of voters who wanted Mr. Trump to make the pick. In each of the three states, Mr. Biden led by just a slightly wider margin on choosing the next justice than he did over all.
Similarly, a Fox News poll last week found that voters nationwide trusted Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump — by seven points — to nominate the next Supreme Court justice. Here again, Mr. Biden led by a slightly wider margin on this issue than he led Mr. Trump.
Among issues favorable or unfavorable to the two candidates, appointing a Supreme Court justice ranked somewhere in the middle of those tested by the survey. It was a better issue for Mr. Trump than handling of the coronavirus or race relations, but a much better issue for Mr. Biden than the economy or law and order.
So far this year, Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump have tended to gain when the national political conversation focuses on their best issues. If the pattern holds and the most recent poll results are representative, it’s not obvious whether either candidate will benefit from a focus on the Supreme Court.
A closer look at the results suggests there might be some upside for Mr. Biden among persuadable and low-turnout voters. Voters who either weren’t backing a major-party candidate or who said they could still change their mind said they thought Mr. Biden would be better at choosing the next justice by an 18-point margin, 49 percent to 31 percent. And voters who said they weren’t “almost certain” or “very likely” to vote said they thought the same by an even larger 52-23 margin.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Mr. Biden will retain a lead on the issue. Perhaps Mr. Trump’s standing on the issue will benefit if he rolls out a popular nominee. But another divisive fight over the Supreme Court might also prove to be the kind of exhausting, partisan conflict that leaves many voters seeking a more bipartisan approach to politics.
That might be good news for Mr. Biden, who enjoys a commanding lead on which candidate would do a better job of unifying America.
The flag was flown at half staff outside of the Supreme Court the morning after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died.Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death revived talk about an idea that has been bandied about for years but, until recently, not feasibly considered by people in a position to enact it: court packing.
The term is commonly associated with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who pushed legislation in 1937 that could have expanded the Supreme Court from nine to as many as 15 justices.
The history is more complicated than the usual narrative suggests: Mr. Roosevelt, aiming to push older justices to step down, wanted to add a justice to the court for each sitting justice who refused to retire after 70.
More than eight decades later, the idea of expanding the court is back. In 2016, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, refused to hold a Senate vote on Merrick Garland, who was nominated to the court by President Barack Obama after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Mr. McConnell held the seat open until after the inauguration of President Trump, who nominated Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, a move that led some Democrats to suggest expanding the court. They argued that Republicans had “stolen” a seat that should have been filled by Mr. Obama, and that Democrats would be justified in adding seats to shift the ideological balance back.
Republicans have called the idea radical and undemocratic, and some Democrats have feared that it could backfire.
Although the Supreme Court has consisted of nine justices for well over a century, the Constitution does not require that number, and Congress changed the size of the court several times between its establishment and the Civil War.
Some undecided voters are weighing whether the Supreme Court vacancy will affect their decision.Credit…Elaine Thompson/Associated Press
In interviews with more than a dozen voters in battleground states on Friday night and Saturday morning, The Times found that Democratic and Republican voters were largely racing to partisan corners regarding how they think President Trump and Senate Republicans should proceed in filling the Supreme Court seat held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
But among independent and undecided voters, there was less of a pattern: Some said they were still mulling how the coming fight over the court could tilt their thinking — and their decision about which presidential candidate to support.
In an interview Friday afternoon inside the clothing store where she was working in Bemidji, Minn., the city where Mr. Trump held a rally later Friday night, Rachel Harris, 19, indicated that she was undecided about who to vote for in November.
But after hearing the news about Justice Ginsburg, Ms. Harris emailed Friday night to say she had made up her mind.
“I will be voting for Biden,” she wrote before raising the issue of abortion rights. “I care about my rights, and they will be taken away if Trump continues to be president.”
Brendan Tanner, a 23-year-old independent voter in Peoria, Ariz., was among those with a mixed mind. Mr. Tanner said he was leaning toward voting for Mr. Trump, but was also considering sitting out the election because he sees deep flaws in both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden. And if Mr. Trump were to press forward with a court nomination, it would only add to his list of grievances with the president.
Mr. Tanner said it wouldn’t be “fair” to “sneak” in a Supreme Court pick with less than two months to go before the election.
“When you’re talking about a Supreme Court justice who is going to serve until they want to quit or until the end of their life, that’s a huge decision that’s going to affect generations — and that’s something that needs to be considered very carefully,” he said. “I think it should wait.”
But both Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Biden’s most fervent supporters were less circumspect.
On one side, there were Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters like Merrill Tufts, 51, of Winterville, N.C., and Lucila Flores, 61, of Phoenix who insisted that any move to replace Justice Ginsburg this close to the election would be inappropriate and politically motivated.
“This is called imposing your will on somebody and your party upon the people,” Mr. Tufts, a retired Marine said.
But Mr. Trump’s supporters found little to be gained from delaying. His 2016 victory and the Republican majority in the Senate, they said, amounts to a use-it-or-lose-it proposition they could risk not having after the election.
Waiting for shuttle buses after attending the president’s rally in Bemidji, voter after voter said Mr. Trump should act quickly to seat a new justice.
Laurie Christianson of Moorhead, Minn., offered straightforward advice: “Do it now.”
In a letter Friday night, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, urged his Republican colleagues “to be cautious and keep your powder dry until we return to Washington.”
But one G.O.P. senator is already making the case for not voting on a Supreme Court replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg until after Election Day.
“If we fail before the election, it really deflates our side,” said this senator. “And even if we succeed, it takes the prize off the table. And I think the prize is pretty motivational.”
In light of the sensitivities around the issue, and Mr. McConnell’s admonition, the lawmaker requested anonymity to offer a candid assessment of this extraordinary moment.
The senator, who had not spoken to Mr. McConnell, predicted the leader would come around to this calculation. “I’d be surprised if he doesn’t,” the senator said.
Because Mr. McConnell cares primarily about politics, and specifically retaining power, said the lawmaker. And to try to push a nominee through before the election could risk a demoralizing loss on the Senate floor — or simply force Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha McSally of Arizona into taking votes that would likely doom their electoral chances.