Supreme Court politics in Election 2012
President Barack Obama lost a potential campaign attack line when the Supreme Court upheld his health care law.
But the nation’s highest court still serves as one of Obama’s best tools for raising money and waking up his base.
And as Mitt Romney is discovering, invoking the Supreme Court can fire up conservatives, too.
Four Supreme Court justices enter the next term in their 70s, and any changes during the next presidential term could tip the balance of the court on some of the nation’s hottest social issues, including same-sex marriage, civil rights and abortion.
There’s also the often-overlooked aspect that the president nominates judges to fill the nation’s appellate and district courts, which produce some of the country’s most lasting decisions.
Attention to the Supreme Court has grown in recent years after a handful of high-profile rulings. Conservatives fumed over Chief Justice John Roberts’s unexpected health care opinion last month. Democrats were furious over the court’s 5-4 opinion in 2010 on Citizens United that led to a dramatic restructuring of the nation’s campaign finance system.
When the court reconvenes in October, justices will hear oral arguments on a major affirmative action case. There’s also the possibility of emergency hearings on voter ID laws that could determine November’s turnout and, conceivably, who wins the White House.
Also around the corner: potential Supreme Court cases involving same-sex marriage, the Voting Rights Act and even the perennial, go-to-your-corners brawls over abortion.
“When I’m talking to potential donors, I always raise the high court as a key factor that we have to worry about,” said Harold Ickes, president of Priorities USA Action, the super PAC backing Obama’s reelection campaign. “It’s not a big education that you have to do. You just have to remind people of the importance of the judiciary, what it means in American life and the longevity of the justices.”
Team Obama has been trying out some of its best lines on the court. First lady Michelle Obama’s stump speech emphasizes the historic addition of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina on the court, and Justice Elena Kagan. “Don’t forget those two brilliant Supreme Court justices Barack
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