Politics

Supreme Court Ads to Target GOP Senators

Polls show voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin want action on nominee

Pennsylvania Sen. Patrick J. Toomey is to become the first target of a television ad campaign pushing Republican senators to consider President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee .  

The Constitutional Responsibility Project released its first ad Friday morning, a 30-second spot which they said will air in Philadelphia next week. The group's organizer, Stephanie Cutter, said there will be more ads to come. She declined to release the size of Pennsylvania buy.  

The ad comes as senators return home for a week-long recess, during which the Constitutional Responsibility Project will be organizing more than 50 events in nine states to pressure senators to consider Judge Merrick Garland, whom President Barack Obama nominated to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court following Justice Antonin Scalia's death in February.  

Related: The Full Court Press for Merrick Garland The group also touted a new poll conducted with Hart Research and the League of Conservation Voters, which found a majority of Pennsylvania voters, 56 percent compared to 37, want the Senate to hold hearings and a vote on Garland's nomination.  

"Pat Toomey is seriously out of step with his state,” said Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research Associates.  

Toomey is one of several Republicans who have met with Garland ,  but all but two GOP senators have refused to consider his nomination.  

A new poll from Wisconsin shows another vulnerable Republican incumbent, Sen. Ron Johnson, also facing opposition to his stance on the president's Supreme Court pick. 60 percent of likely voters there wanted the Senate to fill the Supreme Court vacancy now.  

Outside groups and Senate Democrats have continued to push Republicans to act, holding rallies, highlighting polling data, and making floor speeches; they hope that public pressure will change GOP minds.  

"In state after state we’re seeing support for these senators go down," said Cutter, one of several former Obama administration officials coordinating outside groups on the Supreme Court fight.  “It’s not going to get any easier for them, It looks like Donald Trump is their presumptive nominee, which is making many of them nervous.”  

In the Pennsylvania poll, pollsters surveyed 502 voters over the phone, including 100 registered independents, from April 20 to April 23. Aside from the independents, 48 percent of those surveyed were Democrats and 40 percent Republicans, to reflect statewide percentages.  

The poll found that only 27 percent of voters were aware of Toomey's position that the Senate should not consider Garland before November's election. Once informed of his position, 57 percent overall, as well as 60 percent of independents, had an "unfavorable reaction."  

Toomey sat down with the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for roughly an hour on April 12.  

“Judge Garland’s very impressive. He’s a very, very intelligent guy. He’s a very likable guy,” Toomey told reporters after the meeting. But, he said he had concerns about Garland's judicial philosophy and his record as a judge.  

“I’m not convinced that he would be willing to play the role of a sufficiently aggressive check on an administration,” Toomey concluded.  

Related: Meeting with Merrick A campaign spokesman reiterated on Friday Toomey's opposition to a hearing before the November election, saying that the senator “wants the American people to have a more direct say about the Supreme Court’s balance for a generation.”  

Toomey faces Democrat Katie McGinty in November, and he is considered one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans. The Rothenberg-Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rates his re-election race Tilts Republican .

Contact Bowman at  bridgetbowman@rollcall.com  and follow her on Twitter  @bridgetbhc .

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