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Justice Ginsburg's Death Will Not Upend the Race Completely

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September 19, 2020

It is hard to believe that we are mourning yet another groundbreaking leader in a year of so much loss. It feels inappropriate to be spending more time talking about the politics of her replacement than the life of this pioneering woman. 

But, we know that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was well-aware that her death was going to ignite a political firestorm. 

According to NPR reporting, she dictated a message to her granddaughter, Clara Spera, in the days before her death: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

We don't know that she'll get her wish. But, we do know that with less than two months until Election Day (and many voters already casting early ballots), this is going to be a consequential issue in an already polarizing election. 

For years, including the 2016 election, conventional wisdom dictated conservative voters who cared more about the highest court than liberals. 

It's hard to see that hold true this year. The prospect of a conservative hold on the Supreme Court is no longer a theory that Democrats have to convince their voters to care about. Of course, it is also true that the prospect of a conservative court could help motivate GOP voters who are currently ambivalent about the current president. 

It is also just the latest "once in a generation" event that has come to define 2020. Since January, the president was impeached, a pandemic has killed more than 200,000 Americans, the economy has collapsed under the weight of pandemic related shutdowns, thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest racial inequality and police violence, and violence has broken out on the streets of Portland, Kenosha and others. Tell-all books have been released. And, yet, opinions about the president and this presidential contest have been remarkably stable. 

Pres. Trump's job approval rating in early January was 42%. Today it is 43%. 

Since March, Joe Biden has held a consistent 4-9 point lead over Trump. 

There's no doubt that the fight over the court will be a big one. And that it will ratchet up the already sky high intensity surrounding this election. But, will it upend the race completely? I doubt it. 

Image Credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite