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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.

Go deeper

Trump's judicial legacy will block Biden's

Data: Federal Judicial CenterU.S. Courts; Note: Trump data is through Dec. 1, 2002; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump’s astounding record of judicial appointments will not only reshape the judiciary for a generation, but it will likely deny President-elect Joe Biden the chance to put much of his own stamp on the courts.

Dead malls get new life

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Malls are becoming ghosts of retail past. But the left-behind real estate is being reimagined for a post-pandemic world.

Why it matters: As many as 17% of malls in the U.S. "may no longer be viable as shopping centers and need to be redeveloped into other uses," per Barclays.

White House now says Biden will move to increase refugee cap by May 15

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The White House on Friday afternoon said President Biden plans to lift the Trump-era refugee cap by May 15.

Driving the news: The announcement follows stinging criticism from several Democrats and rights groups, who said Biden was walking back on his pledge to raise the limit. Earlier Friday, Biden signed a directive to speed up the processing of refugees, but kept the Trump administration's historically low cap of 15,000 refugees for this year.