Trump says he will ‘likely’ choose a woman to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Supreme Court

David Jackson

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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Saturday he wants to pick a new Supreme Court justice next week, probably a woman.

“I could see most likely it would be a woman,” Trump told reporters at the White House before he departed for Fayetteville, North Carolina, for a campaign rally.

Trump said he would like to see the announcement “next week,” but did not give a specific time frame.

Trump is looking for a successor for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the court’s liberal justices, who died Friday after announcing in July she suffered a recurrence of cancer and that lesions had been found on her liver. 

Ginsburg’s death touched off an immediate fight over her successor because the vacancy gives Trump and Senate Republicans a rare opportunity to solidify conservative control of the court, perhaps for decades to come.

In urging a quick confirmation, Trump said he disagreed with the statement by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that the winner of the presidential election should pick the next justice. “We have an obligation,” Trump said. “We won. And we have an obligation as the winners to pick who we want.”

Trump said he wants his nominee confirmed as soon as possible. “I think it’s going to move very quickly,” he said of the confirmation process. “I think we’re going to start the process extremely soon.”

Trump has said the prospect of putting conservative justices on the Supreme Court helped fuel his victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Now Trump, who installed justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, hopes a third appointment will boost his chances against Joe Biden in November.

Democrats noted Republicans took a much different approach after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.

In that election year, Senate Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee – Merrick Garland – and argued that the winner of the presidential election should pick the new justice.

Democrats said the same standard should apply this time around, and everyone should wait and let the winner of the November contest make the selection.

Josh Schwerin of Priorities USA Action, a political action committee that supports Democratic candidates, predicted that voters will “see right through” the hypocrisy of Trump and the Republicans.

“Senate Republicans who go back on their word and the precedent they set in 2016 will be proving to voters that they care more about getting rid of the Affordable Care Act and coverage of pre-existing conditions, and overturning Roe vs Wade than they do about integrity or morals,” he said.

A few Republicans agree.

Collins said in a statement Saturday she would not support a confirmation vote before the election. “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 a President who is elected on November 3rd,” she said.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a moderate Republican, asked Trump and the Senate “to allow the American people to cast their ballots for President before a new justice is nominated or confirmed.”

The reason: “The Supreme Court is too important to rush and must be removed from partisan political infighting,” Baker said.

It’s too early to say how the Supreme Court issue might play out in the presidential race, officials said, especially in a closely contested state like North Carolina.

The Real Clear Politics website average of recent polls gives Biden a bare lead of 0.9 percentage points over Trump, well within the margins of error.

Some analysts favor Trump because there is some question as to how much of a battleground North Carolina really is – Republicans have dominated it in presidential elections over the past four decades. 

Since President Ronald Reagan won North Carolina in 1980, Obama in 2008 is the only Democratic presidential candidate to capture the state, noted Jody Baumgartner, political science professor at East Carolina University.

“We hear this every four years – ‘Oh, North Carolina is going to be a swing state,'” Baumgartner said. “But North Carolina is never a swing state.”

Still, the growth of cities and an increase in the number of college-educated voters give Biden and the Democrats a fighting chance in North Carolina, said Susan Roberts, a political science professor at Davidson College.

“I think it is as tight as it looks,” she said.