In politics, it’s the unexpected that shakes the race the hardest. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia‘s death Saturday did just that and more, raising the stakes for control of the White House and further heightening the rhetoric in what is already a most contentious race. Within minutes of word spreading of his death, Republicans pledged to block any nominee to the high court by President Obama, casting the November race as a referendum on the court. Of course, the next president had always been expected to make several nominations, but now there is a visible linkage. The swift rejection of any nominee was a politically risky move. Obama promised to nominate a candidate for the Senate’s consideration, both abiding by his Constitutional responsibilities and allowing him to cast Republicans once again as obstructionist.But from the perspective of Senate Republicans, any notion that they could confirm an Obama-nominated justice would only boost the candidacies of the anti-Establishment Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, so it had to be stamped out—and fast. The vacancy, which appears likely to set a record, has profound impacts for the cases set to be heard by the high court this year.
Scalia’s death was announced just hours before the six remaining GOP presidential candidates faced off in Greenville, S.C. in what was the bloodiest debate of the race yet. With attacks moving every which way, it appeared Trump emerged most bloodied by a coordinated-by-convenience assault from Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, as he appeared to blame former president George W. Bush for the September 11 attacks. But it remains to be seen what impact the event will have on the race in South Carolina, where Trump and Cruz have been fighting for first and Bush and Rubio locked in a pitched battle for third.
The former president appeared on the campaign trail publicly for the first time Monday evening with his younger brother, delivering a not-so-subtle, but nameless, critique of Trump before Jeb Bush’s largest crowd of the cycle. The candidate, for his part, rose to the occasion of having his more gregarious relation introduce him, delivering one of his best renditions of his stump speech yet. But it remains to be seen whether the last minute reinforcements will help Bush or if they will prove to be too little, too late. Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise, said Monday it was delaying its planned advertising for the March 1 Super Tuesday states until after the South Carolina primary on Saturday to reassess where to deploy its resources.
Trump, meanwhile, is firing broadsides at Cruz over new negative ads from his campaign that highlight Trump’s shifting policy positions on abortion, gun control and eminent domain in South Carolina, repeatedly calling the Texas Senator a liar and threatening to file a lawsuit questioning Cruz’s constitutional eligibility to serve because of his birth in Canada.
What a Bloomberg run might look like. Scalia’s lasting influence. And a Cruz backer’s anti-Rubio ads are pulled from TV.
Here are your must-reads:
George W. Bush Counterpunches Donald Trump at Jeb! Rally
The “big little brother” gets some help from his big brother [TIME]
Why the Fight to Replace Antonin Scalia Will Be Ugly
TIME’s Michael Scherer writes that neither side benefits from compromise
Trump’s New Favorite Line: Cruz Is a Liar
In press conference, Trump threatens to sue his rival from Texas [TIME]
Donald Trump: Truth Teller?
If Trump doesn’t fizzle now, Republicans will have to ask themselves what their party actually does stand for, TIME’s Joe Klein writes
How Marco Rubio Plans to Win South Carolina
A strong focus on his faith, TIME’s Philip Elliott reports
Why the Republican Debate Was So Brutal
A food-fight in Greenville [TIME]
Antonin Scalia’s Lasting Influence
TIME’s David Von Drehle on how he showed modern presidents and political parties that it is possible to pick a Supreme Court justice who shines brightly without shifting shape
“I think the Scalia death in many ways refocused this campaign. It’s like, hold on a second, this is not just about having somebody interesting there, about making a point or sending a message.” — Marco Rubio to reporters aboard his campaign bus
“From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies. We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation.” — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg remembering Justice Antonin Scalia
Bits and Bites
Cruz Makes His Vast Supreme Court Knowledge Focus of His Campaign [Associated Press]
What a Bloomberg Run Might Look Like [RealClearPolitics]
After 9/11, Trump Took Money Marked for Small Businesses [The Weekly Standard]