Sep 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Inside Biden's Supreme Court strategy

Joe Biden enters the hall at the National Constitution Center.

Joe Biden enters the hall at the National Constitution Center. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden’s closing argument will shift to a dominant emphasis on health care, turning the looming Supreme Court fight into a referendum on coverage and pre-existing conditions, officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: Biden aides believed they were winning when the race was about the coronavirus pandemic. Now they plan to use the Supreme Court opening as a raucous new field for a health care fight, returning to a theme that gave Democrats big midterm wins in 2018.

Here’s the case Biden will make: The new justice could have a deciding vote on protections for pre-existing conditions.

  • Biden said in Philadelphia on Sunday: "There is so much at stake — the right to health care, clean air and water, and equal pay for equal work. The rights of voters, immigrants, women and workers."
  • The Biden campaign will coordinate closely with House and Senate Democratic leaders on how to link the Supreme Court fight to Trump's coronavirus response.
  • Like House Democratic challengers in suburban seats in 2018, Biden will constantly remind voters that Trump's stated goal has always been to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Don't forget: An Affordable Care Act case will be heard by the Supreme Court a week after the election. A decision is expected in June 2021.

Between the lines: Biden advisers view the court vacancy as a rare last-minute chance to get a second look from independents.

  • The campaign will use the coming fight to appeal and motivate younger voters who want to protect Roe v. Wade.
  • "If you want something to fire up young people who weren’t all that interested this year, this is it,” John Anzalone, a Biden pollster, told the New York Times.

The other side: Republicans see the court vacancy as a new chance to hold the Senate by juicing GOP turnout in states like North Carolina, where Sen. Thom Tillis has been trailing in public and private polls, officials tell Axios.

  • Trumpworld now believes a fired-up Republican base diminishes Democrats' hopes of flipping Texas and Georgia.
  • But nothing appears easier for Cory Gardner in Colorado or Susan Collins in Maine.

Republicans view the SCOTUS fight as a battle of the bases: They think they can demoralize Democrats, and depress turnout, if they quickly fill RBG's seat.

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