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Trump, Biden Fight to Define Issues    09/23 06:17

   Since Ginsburg's death on Friday sparked a battle over the future of the 
Supreme Court, Trump and Biden have fought to define the lens through which 
voters view the 2020 contest. Biden wants the election to be a referendum on 
Trump and his failure to control a pandemic that has killed 200,000 Americans 
or address the nation's larger health care issues. Trump wants to focus on the 
court fight to unite the party and energize the GOP's base.

   SWANTON, Ohio (AP) -- President Donald Trump was interrupted twice during an 
Ohio rally this week by sign-waving supporters chanting, "Fill that seat!"

   "I will fill that seat," Trump responded before launching into an extended 
riff on his plans to quickly nominate a successor to Supreme Court Justice Ruth 
Bader Ginsburg. "They say it's the most important thing a president can do."

   During a swing through Wisconsin a few hours earlier, there were no big 
crowds for Democrat Joe Biden, whose campaign is strictly following protocols 
to combat the coronavirus. The battle over the future of the Supreme Court was 
largely missing, too, with Biden far more eager to talk about the pandemic, 
health care and the economy.

   Since Ginsburg's death on Friday sparked a battle over the future of the 
Supreme Court, Trump and Biden have fought to define the lens through which 
voters view the 2020 contest. Biden wants the election to be a referendum on 
Trump and his failure to control a pandemic that has killed 200,000 Americans 
or address the nation's larger health care issues. Trump wants to focus on the 
court fight to unite the party and energize the GOP's base.

   Biden openly acknowledged his reluctance to focus on the Supreme Court 
during an interview with WBAY, a local Green Bay, Wisconsin, news station, when 
asked whether he'd support liberal proposals to add seats to the high court.

   "It's a legitimate question, but let me tell you why I'm not going to answer 
that question --- because it will shift the focus. That's what he wants. He 
never wants to talk about the issue at hand, and he always tries to change the 
subject," Biden said of Trump.

   He insisted discussion should be about why Trump "is moving in a direction 
that's totally inconsistent with what (the) founders wanted."

   Each candidate's strategy carries risk.

   Biden's measured approach risks alienating his party's left wing, which 
desperately wants to stop Trump from giving conservatives a larger majority on 
the nation's high court. Not only has Biden been reluctant to embrace the 
topic, he also broke from his more liberal primary rivals earlier in the year 
by opposing calls to add seats to "pack" the Supreme Court.

   Biden, who ran a relatively centrist primary campaign and spent 36 years in 
the Senate, is concerned that such a move would worsen divisions during a 
particularly polarized moment in American history.

   And Trump, by leaning into the issue, risks alienating swing voters in key 
states who don't see the court debate anywhere near as important as issues 
related to the immediate threat of the pandemic and the sluggish economic 
recovery.

   There is little polling data so soon after Ginsburg's death, but Republican 
and Democratic pollsters believe that the Supreme Court is not an animating 
issue for persuadable voters. Those close to the Trump campaign privately 
acknowledge it's helpful mostly because it shifts the conversation away from 
Trump's divisive leadership. And Democrats believe the court simply isn't a 
top-of-mind issue for the working-class voters they're trying to reach.

   "I don't know that swing voters are motivated by it," said Ron Harris, who 
chairs the Democratic National Committee's Midwestern Caucus. "It's a 
motivating issue for the base."

   Harris noted that Biden is not completely ignoring the court fight, but 
"he's trying to get back on the turf we've been winning: the economy, health 
care, the pandemic."

   Still, the timing of the Supreme Court confirmation process will ensure it's 
a significant part of the conversation during the closing weeks of the 
election. Trump said he would announce his nominee Saturday, and Senate 
Republicans appear to be giving him enough support to move forward with the 
nomination, which will require a committee hearing and subsequent vote by the 
full Senate before it's finalized.

   There is growing internal pressure on Trump and Senate Republicans to finish 
the confirmation process before the Nov. 3 election.

   Biden's messenger on the issue could become his running mate, California 
Sen. Kamala Harris. She won't be able to avoid questions on the subject as a 
member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she'll be one of the Democrats 
questioning Trump's nominee.

   Harris elevated her national profile in 2018 with an aggressive role in 
Brett Kavanaugh's contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearing, and she faces 
the prospect of an even bigger spotlight as Biden's counterpart on Capitol Hill 
moving forward.

   Biden's team wouldn't predict whether the Democrat's closing message might 
change. One aide speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal 
conversations said the campaign hasn't ruled out running ads around the Supreme 
Court vacancy, though a final decision has yet to be made. The aide said Biden 
himself would like to pay his respects at Ginsburg's services this week, but 
even those plans haven't yet been set in stone.

   Trump, meanwhile, is relishing the debate, at least for now. His next 
Supreme Court nomination would be his third.

   "A lot of presidents get none; we've had three," Trump told his cheering 
supporters. "It's blowing their minds, it's blowing their minds, but for the 
people of Ohio, this is what you want."

 
 
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