If Sen. Kelly Ayotte is trying to avoid the tumult over holding hearings on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, the Republican may want to steer clear of her Nashua, N.H., office.
A protest planned there by liberal groups on Monday is among the opening salvos in a sweeping advocacy campaign targeted at senators while they are on recess during the next two weeks. Groups backing and opposing President Barack Obama's nominee, in fact, say they are mobilizing in person and online and buying advertising time in an effort to sway sentiment their way.
“There will be mass protests and events happening all across the country,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president for policy at People for the American Way, which is taking part in Monday’s New Hampshire event and others. Ayotte is facing a tough re-election fight against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.
Progressive organizations, such as Baker’s and MoveOn.org, are pushing senators to give Garland, a U.S. appeals court judge, a confirmation hearing and a vote. Conservative lobbies and some business groups who oppose replacing the late Justice Antonin Scalia in an election year are pressing Republican senators to keep vows not to consider the nomination.
“We know the president’s aggressively trying to frame Garland as if he were a total moderate,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director for the conservative Judicial Crisis Network. “That couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
Severino’s group is launching a $2 million advertising campaign that will include spots thanking GOP senators, such as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who is up for re-election. The pair controls the nomination process and has said the next president should make the nomination.
Judicial Crisis Network also will run ads targeting Red State Democratic senators, such as Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, that showcase Garland's past rulings on gun rights, abortion rights and government regulations. Heitkamp has said the Senate should hold hearings and vote on Garland.
The group also is hiring new employees, contracting out for help and is working in tandem with other issue groups such as the National Rifle Association and organizations that oppose abortion, Severino said.
“We’re welcoming anyone else who wants to help in this fight,” she said.
Meanwhile, liberal MoveOn.org is helping coordinate a national day of action on Monday with events in Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire to press Republican senators in battleground states, said MoveOn campaign director Jo Comerford. The group is also publicly thanking Democratic senators for supporting Obama’s nominee.
MoveOn is drawing on three strategies: demonstrations, calls to senators’ district offices and social media activism. “Using these three channels, we’ll be able to bring the message home very clearly to senators,” Comerford said. “I think what the senators are going to find when they get home, is they’ve got a deaf ear on this. They’re really out of touch.”
Obama hosted a call Thursday to energize activists over his court pick. And some of his allies have launched a new group dubbed the Constitutional Responsibility Project, whose organizers include Stephanie Cutter, a partner at Precision Strategies and a former deputy campaign manager of Obama’s 2012 re-election effort.
Business lobbies, such as the National Federation of Independent Business, are also joining in. The NFIB is poring over Garland's record and doesn't like what it sees, according to Juanita Duggan, the group's president.
"We've been vetting him for weeks, we've already looked at over 50 cases, there's a record there of siding with regulators, labor unions and trial lawyers,” Duggan said. “We definitely want to increase the volume, and that starts with educating our membership.”
Similiarly, the conservative group FreedomWorks is planning a fly-in to Washington April 1-4 to strategize with “super activists,” or its most engaged grass-roots organizers, said Jason Pye, director of justice reform. Already, FreedomWorks activists have sent more than 15,000 messages to McConnell and more than 500,000 total to Senate Republicans urging them to hold firm.
Though the group will cover other topics in the April training session, Pye said, “we’ll have a heavy emphasis on the Supreme Court and why we’re repeating the refrain: no hearing, no vote.”
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