Notes on SCOTUS and Trump’s Super Tuesday.

No one (aside from the leaker) knows who leaked the “first draft” of Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito’s “majority opinion” on the Mississippi abortion case.

One theory is that the leak came from someone who was concerned that Chief Justice Roberts was making progress convincing Justice Brett Kavanaugh that tossing Roe v. Wade and Casey in one fell swoop on a one-vote majority was gasoline on a bonfire of polarization and thus too radical a turn. Better to uphold Mississippi (viability at 15 weeks) and leave Casey and Roe for another day, down the road apiece.

Leaking the opinion would be one way to lock in Kavanaugh’s vote or at least make it much more difficult for him to “switch sides.” The other four (Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch and Barrett) were already locked in, so Kavanaugh’s vote was/is decisive. Anything that keeps him aligned with the “overturn” Justices was and is, from the “pro-life” point of view, justified and devoutly to be wished.

The other theory is that the leak came from a liberal-leaning clerk who believed that by making Alito’s draft public, the political reaction would cause Kavanaugh to reconsider his support for the “majority opinion” and join Roberts on the “uphold Mississippi and leave the rest for later” train. (I put “majority opinion” between quotation marks because it is not yet certain Alito’s draft will be the Court’s opinion).

But of course this is all (almost all) speculation. We don’t know exactly what happened or why it happened and we probably won’t know until Roberts’ investigation into the leak is completed. Whatever comes of the investigation, the Court’s reputation has been damaged by the leak. That we know for sure.

2. The Big Guy had a big day on Tuesday (3 May). I’m fairly confident that JD Vance would have won the Ohio GOP Senate primary without former president Trump’s endorsement. Mr. Vance’s campaign improved as it went along and he did well in the debates; noticeably better than the others. This showed up in the polling. Vance was within striking distance of then-frontrunner Josh Mandel in mid-April, prior to Trump’s endorsement. And Vance’s television advertising was effective.

All that said, Vance probably would not have won had Trump endorsed Mr. Mandel. But Trump did not endorse Mandel. He endorsed Vance and in so doing, prevented Mandel from winning. Sometimes, it’s not who you support that matters most. It’s who you don’t.

P.S. Turnout in the Ohio Republican primary for U.S. Senate was roughly a third higher than it was in 2018 (the most recent mid-term election year). The rural vote was up, markedly. Both data points aren’t specific, in the sense that they tell you this or that about the general election. But they’re worth noting. Republican turnout far exceeded Democratic turnout, statewide.

P.P.S: The Democratic nominee, Rep. Tim Ryan, wasted exactly 10 seconds before he went up on the air with a television advertisement attacking JD Vance. The less time Ryan spends talking about Trump, and the more he focuses on Vance, the better his chances are of winning the race. As things stand, his chances of winning aren’t great. So he can’t afford mistakes. Making the race about Trump would be a huge mistake.

3. One of the persistent fantasies among pre-Trump Republicans (of all stripes) is that Trump will fade away, preferably across the river Styx. There are articles and essays and opinion columns written about how this is beginning to happen, or is happening, or should happen for the good of all concerned. You’ll find them in the political science fiction section. Trump isn’t going anywhere.

Why would he? Tuesday’s news that the Supreme Court was thisclose to overturning Roe v Wade (and Casey) was a huge win for Trump. It made him more than the front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. It made him the overwhelming favorite.

One of the most important constituencies (if not the most important constituency) of the Republican primary electorate is white evangelical Christians. That constituency has been very active for a very long time in the campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade. They worked hard for the cause throughout the conservative presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, but progress was slow, incremental, state-by-state. When Trump was elected in 2016, it was unclear (to say the least) if he would abandon the Right-to-Life cause as quickly as he adopted it during the presidential primary campaign.

In the event, what happened blew everyone’s minds. Not only did Trump not abandon the mission, he completed it. He delivered a Supreme Court ready and willing to strike down Roe and Casey. Barring a last-minute switch by Kavanaugh, it will do just that, this summer.

That’s the end of anyone eating into Trump’s support among white evangelical Christians or conservative Catholics, for that matter. Mike Pence’s presidential campaign, for instance, is officially over. Mr. Pence has a following in the white evangelical community and was given credit for helping hold Trump to his campaign promises to “the religious right.”

But helping and leading are two different things. Trump was the one who made the Court appointments. Trump was the one who (along with his now-sworn enemy Mitch McConnell) got them confirmed in the U.S. Senate. Trump was the one who took the thrashing from the mainstream media for the appointments.

That will not be forgotten, ever. One thing about white evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics is that they reward loyalty with loyalty. During George W. Bush’s presidency, the one constituency that stuck with him through thick and thin was the evangelical community. If Trump gets in trouble down the road in 2023 or 2024, they will stand by him. As important, they won’t entertain the idea of someone else being their presidential nominee. That campaign ended on Tuesday. Trump won in a landslide.

4. It should be noted that Trump didn’t “get it done” by himself. A lot of people helped a lot and none more so than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose “hardball” legislative tactics produced today’s 6–3 Supreme Court conservative majority.

Tuesday’s “majority opinion” was made possible, in large measure because McConnell made it possible and, in so doing, earned the everlasting gratitude of the Right-to-Life movement and millions of evangelical Christians and devout Catholics all across the United States.

Which must piss off The Big Guy no end. Trump can’t stand McConnell and takes every opportunity to bash and trash him, publicly and privately. Sadly, bashing and trashing McConnell is no longer tenable, politically speaking. The Right-to-Life movement views them as co-captains of the Great Team Effort. Co-captains don’t attack each other.

In theory.

Founder and Editor, News Items. Political analyst. Founder of and contributing editor to Bird News Items. Former columnist for The Boston Globe.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
John Ellis

Founder and Editor, News Items. Political analyst. Founder of and contributing editor to Bird News Items. Former columnist for The Boston Globe.