A majority of likely Wisconsin voters want President Barack Obama and the Senate to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat, according to a poll released exclusively to Roll Call on Friday, and opponents of Republican Sen. Ron Johnson hope that sentiment will hurt his re-election bid this fall.
The poll, conducted for End Citizens United PAC by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, shows 60 percent of likely Wisconsin voters want to see the president and Senate take action to fill the vacancy now. Only 35 percent think it’s too late in the president’s term for him to nominate a replacement justice.
Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to fill the Supreme Court vacancy on March 16. Garland has since met with more than 40 senators but Senate Republicans have pledged not consider his nomination this year.
End Citizens United’s goal is to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which deregulated corporate and union spending for or against specific candidates. The PAC has endorsed Johnson’s opponent, Democratic former Sen. Russ Feingold, in the Wisconsin Senate race, and has made use of an email list from a super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton to get its message out nationally.
[Related: Campaign Finance Reform PAC Wants to Be Player in 2016]
This poll also asked what motivations voters ascribed to the two sides of the issue. Roughly half of voters felt that by blocking Obama’s nominee, senators were “trying to advance their party’s agenda rather than doing what is right for the country,” in End Citizens United PAC’s words. On the other side, 39 percent of voters felt that senators who have vowed to block any nominee were doing so to protect “the rights of the American people to have a say.”
[Related: Iowans Less Likely to Vote for Grassley for Holding Up Nominee]
Among independent voters, 57 percent thought senators who blocked any nominee were advancing their own party’s agenda while 37 percent felt they were protecting Americans’ rights.
Johnson, widely regarded as the second most vulnerable senator defending his seat this year, has said the next president should choose Scalia’s successor, allowing the American people to have a say, and in an interview with CNN last month, he said his position would help him in the general election.
In a late-March Marquette University Law School poll , 65 percent of Johnson supporters said the Senate should not act until 2017 on the Supreme Court vacancy.
“Our supporters do not want to see the Supreme Court flipped from five conservatives — to four liberal judicial activists,” Johnson said in the CNN interview. “This judge is pretty — he’s got a proven record of being pretty hostile to Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. That’s kind of important in the state of Wisconsin,” he added of Garland.
Johnson has also suggested that the Senate would be acting differently if it were a Republican in the White House. “Generally, and this is the way it works out politically, if you’re replacing — if a conservative president’s replacing a conservative justice, there’s a little more accommodation to it,” he said during a local radio interview last month.
In the End Citizens United poll, 38 percent of voters had a favorable opinion of Johnson, while 38 percent had an unfavorable view of him. The poll, which surveyed 500 likely voters on landlines and mobile phones, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent. It was conducted April 17-19.
Recent polling on the Wisconsin Senate race has been tightening in Johnson’s favor, although he continues to trail Feingold both in surveys and fundraising. Johnson’s campaign believes he can buck the Badger State’s trend of voting Democratic at the presidential level, and the first-term senator has suggested that having Donald Trump at the top of the ticket could help him in November.
[Related: Johnson Sees Post-Primary Momentum]
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