SCOTUS battle reshapes 2020 election

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:58 p.m. ET, September 21, 2020
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11:32 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Where Biden and Trump stand in latest CNN Poll of Polls

The CNN Poll of Polls tracks the national average in the race for president between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

The poll of polls includes the most recent national telephone polls which meet CNN’s standards for reporting and which measure the views of registered or likely voters. The poll of polls does not have a margin of sampling error.

Here's the latest poll of polls (as of Sept. 20):

12:20 p.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Trump moves to make Supreme Court vacancy a central issue in his campaign

Analysis by Maeve Reston

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s bench chair and the bench directly in front of it at the Supreme Court are draped in memoriam with black wool crepe.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s bench chair and the bench directly in front of it at the Supreme Court are draped in memoriam with black wool crepe. Fred Schilling/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Hoping to shift the public's attention from his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump moved quickly on Saturday to make the new Supreme Court vacancy a central issue in his campaign, announcing he would name a woman to replace Ginsburg this week.

Trump, who had been facing a potentially historic deficit with women voters in part because of their disapproval of his handling of the pandemic, addressed Ginsburg's death moments after he stepped on stage at his campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Saturday night, calling her "a legal giant" whose "landmark rulings, fierce devotion to justice, and her courageous battle against cancer inspire all Americans."

As the crowd began chanting "Fill That Seat!" Trump said he had not made a final choice but was inclined to choose a woman — and then, with a theatrical flourish and no hint of irony, took a snap poll of the crowd to gauge whether they preferred a man or a woman to fill the seat of a justice who was an equal rights icon.

"It will be a woman, a very talented, very brilliant woman," Trump said, after the crowd overwhelmingly cheered for a female nominee. "I haven't chosen yet, but we have numerous women on the list."

For months, Biden has outpaced him by double digits among female voters. And as Trump has watched his numbers erode among White suburban women -- he clumsily attempted to appeal to the "suburban housewives of America" with his law-and-order message -- Trump seemed delighted Saturday night to have the opportunity to talk about elevating a female nominee to the highest court, noting at one point that he liked women better than men.

He called on Biden once again to release his list of potential nominees to the high court, but suggested it would be too politically fraught for the former vice president to do so.

Read more here.

11:19 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

These 2 GOP senators oppose taking up SCOTUS nominee before Election Day 

From CNN's Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox

Drew Angerer/Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images

Only 43 days until the US election, Senate Republicans have put themselves on the path to confirm a nominee to dramatically shift the balance of power in the US Supreme Court.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can lose three Republicans if this vote is held before Election Day, because Vice President Mike Pence can cast a potential tie-breaking vote.

McConnell has already lost two — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. But finding another two Republican lawmakers who are going to defy their leader on an issue that is as core to Republican orthodoxy as the highest court, that's tough.

When an actual vote could take place: McConnell hasn't said if a vote will happen before or after the election. And, he may not have to decide tomorrow, this week or even this month.

It is possible Republicans start down this road, get a nominee, hold hearings and debate without a public pronouncement of when a vote will actually take place. That gives campaigns time to poll and McConnell more time to win over his conference.

It also is a fact that predicting a timeline this early in the game isn't necessary or even practical. Need proof? See the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

Read more here.

10:32 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Biden entered fall campaign with $466 million in the bank — a $141 million cash advantage over Trump

From CNN's Fredreka Schouten and Sarah Mucha

morat Joe Biden's campaign and aligned Democratic Party committees entered September and the fall sprint to Election Day with $466 million in cash reserves — giving the former vice president a significant financial advantage over President Trump.

Team Biden's cash position, released by his campaign Sunday night, puts the Democratic nominee and his party about $141 million ahead of Trump's political operation. It represents a sharp reversal from the opening months of the general election when Trump enjoyed a formidable financial lead.

The New York Times first reported Biden's cash stockpile.

Heavy spending by Trump and record-breaking fundraising by Biden and his allies in August as he added California Sen. Kamala Harris to the ticket helped Democrats overtake the President and the Republican National Committee.

Trump and his joint operation with Republicans started September with $325 million in its cash stockpile, Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh announced on Twitter late last week.

The numbers released Sunday came as campaigns filed reports with federal regulators detailing their fundraising and spending during August.

Read more here.

10:56 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Trump says he has to assume Biden will do "great" in debates

From CNN's Allie Malloy

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

In a Monday morning interview on "Fox and Friends," President Trump discussed the election and admitted that he has to “assume” former vice president Joe Biden will do “great” in the debates. The first presidential debate is set to take place next week.

“Look, I think he’s a professional. I don’t know if he’s all there but I think he’s a professional… and that he can debate,” Trump said when asked about debating Biden next week.

“I have to assume he’s going to do great — because he’s been there 47 years he’s been in the public service. A long time," he continued.

Trump then added digs against the Democratic presidential candidate saying, “ I don’t understand what’s going on he doesn’t seem to be answering questions and he can’t answer questions. And much worse, a little while ago when he was on stage with the democrats — he couldn’t do well. He did okay with Bernie — it was sort of a tie. It was nothing great… It was ok. It was fine.”

Asked about the Biden campaign’s huge financial edge on his campaign, the president pointed to the last election where he was also outspent by the Clinton campaign. When asked whether he would spend his own money, Trump said: “I would do that…if we needed money- but we don’t need money.”

9:45 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Biden campaign has not signaled a fundamental shift in campaign strategy after Ginsburg's death

From CNN's Arlette Saenz, Sarah Mucha and Tami Luhby

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images
Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden intends to make a push on health care in the wake of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death as a political fight over the Supreme Court vacancy is already underway.

In the immediate days after Ginsburg's passing, the Biden campaign has not signaled a fundamental shift in its campaign strategy, which has hinged on the coronavirus pandemic and the economy, as President Trump quickly moved to make the Supreme Court vacancy a central issue in his campaign.

Instead, Biden campaign officials say the former vice president plans to make defending the Affordable Care Act and its sweeping protections for pre-existing conditions a key focus, with an aide saying they view the President's efforts to dismantle Obamacare as a motivating issue for voters.

"Make no mistake: the fight to preserve protections for pre-existing conditions is on the ballot," a Biden campaign aide said.

Biden started that push with a speech in Philadelphia Sunday as he assailed Trump's support of a Republican-led challenge to the Affordable Care Act as the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the case one week after the election.

"In the middle of the worst global health crisis in living memory, Donald Trump is before the Supreme Court trying to strip health care coverage away from tens of millions of families, to strip away the peace of mind of more than 100 million Americans with pre-existing conditions," Biden said in a speech at the National Constitution Center.

Biden also repeated his call for the Senate not to consider a nominee until after voters have selected the president in this year's election.

Visit CNN's Election Center for full coverage of the 2020 race

9:47 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Here's what is on Trump and Biden's schedules today

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

As President Trump and Joe Biden enter the fall sprint to Election Day, both candidates hit the campaign trail today and are set to deliver remarks.

  • Trump is expected to travel to Ohio, where he will first deliver remarks at a "Workers for Trump" event at 4:30 p.m. ET in Vandalia and then hold a "Great American Comeback" rally at 7:00 p.m. ET in Swanton.
  • Biden travels to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and is set deliver remarks at 3:15 p.m. ET. This will mark Biden’s second trip to Wisconsin since becoming the official Democratic presidential nominee. He traveled earlier this month to the Milwaukee area and Kenosha, the city where the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake reignited protests over racial injustice.

Check out CNN's Poll of Polls which tracks the national average in the race here.

10:02 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Republicans are speeding toward a SCOTUS confirmation. Here's where things stand in the process.

From CNN's Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox

Senate Republicans, in less than 72 hours, have put themselves on the path to confirm a nominee to dramatically shift the balance of power in the US Supreme Court. And they very well may do it before the November 3 election.

Bottom line: There is no on-ramp or slow lead-up to what's happening at this moment, in the middle of an increasingly divisive election taking place in a fractured country. A colossal battle, the contours of which have been laid over years of judicial fights, disputes and wars, was under way within hours of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Republicans have grown more and more confident they can confirm the liberal icon's successor in the weeks ahead, according to senators and senior aides. But how ‚ and when — is still coming together.

What to watch today:

  • Senate GOP closed-door leadership meeting, 5 p.m. ET
  • Senate vote — and first opportunity to talk to rank-and-file senators — 5:30 p.m.

Days until the election: 43

The reversal: Republicans have had no issue doing a complete 180-degree shift on their 2016 position on holding open a seat in an election year. Officially, it's because the circumstances are different -- unlike 2016, the White House and Senate are controlled by the same party.

The reality is this is just a raw power play. Republicans have the power. They're going to exert that power, and no amount of video clips or old quotes that seemingly make them appear to be hypocrites will change that, according to more than a dozen senators and top aides to whom we spoke over the weekend.

"They'd do the same thing," a GOP senator told CNN, rationalizing the turnabout.

Read more here.

Watch:

10:01 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Trump says Supreme Court pick is down to 4 or 5

From CNN's Allie Malloy

President Trump discussed his Supreme Court nominee in an interview with Fox and Friends this morning, saying he is still looking at 4 to 5 candidates “very seriously."

“It’s down to five. It could be any one of them,” Trump said on Fox and Friends Monday before adding it was “probably four” candidates.

He did discuss Barbara Lagoa and Amy Coney Barrett by name when asked about the women.

On Lagoa Trump said, “She’s excellent. She’s Hispanic. She’s a terrific woman from everything I know… I don’t know her. Florida. We love Florida.” When asked whether politics is a consideration, Trump said he thinks “less so than the person themselves.”

Trump was also asked about Ginsburg’s dying wish in which she told her granddaughter that she doesn’t want to be replaced until a new president is elected. Trump then claimed that he thinks that statement could have been written by Schiff, Schumer and Pelosi.

“I don’t know that she said that or was that written out by Adam Schiff and Schumer and Pelosi? I would be more inclined by the second… That came out of the wind. Maybe she did or maybe she didn’t. Look the bottom line is we won the election. We have an obligation to do what’s right and act as quickly as possible. We should act quickly because we’re gonna have probably election things involved here because of the fake ballots that they’ll be sending out,” Trump said.

On timing for a vote on his nominee, Trump said he would prefer a vote before the election but said either way, he has a “lot of time.”

“Don’t forget we were put in this position by voters and we have a lot of time. It’s not like we have two days. We have a lot of time as this goes. Whether it’s before or after... I think it should go before. Whether it’s before or after — I mean after we have a lot of time,” Trump said of a vote.