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Analysis: Why won’t more Republicans vote for Ketanji Brown Jackson?

“After reviewing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s extensive record, watching much of her hearing testimony, and meeting with her twice in person, I have concluded that she possesses the experience, qualifications, and integrity to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court,” Collins said. “I will, therefore, vote to confirm her to this position.”

So … that makes one Senate Republican who will vote for Jackson. And a few others — most notably Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski — who are still on the fence about how they will vote.

And, well, that’s about it. It seems possible that Jackson may get only a single Republican vote and that, at the top end, a total of three or four Republicans end up backing her ascension to the Supreme Court. (Worth noting: Assuming all 50 Democrats back her, she could be confirmed without a single GOP vote.)

That paucity of Republican support is incongruous to how the public feels about the judge.

In a national Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday, 66% of Americans said they would vote to confirm Jackson to the Supreme Court if they were senators while just 34% said they would oppose her confirmation.
A national Quinnipiac University poll, also released Wednesday, found that a majority (51%) of Americans said the Senate should confirm Jackson, while 30% said the Senate should not. A majority (52%) also disapproved of the way Republican senators are handling her confirmation process.

So what gives? Why aren’t there 10 or 15 Republican senators willing to vote “yes” on Jackson?

The answer lies in base politics. No one across the political spectrum has traditionally cared more about judges — and Supreme Court justices specifically — than the Republican base. And the focus on the courts among base Republicans has only grown in recent years as the Supreme Court has made major rulings on issues like same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act.

And it’s that base that most Republican senators are aiming to make happy every day. (Collins, one of the few GOP senators who represents a state carried by President Joe Biden in 2020, is less beholden to her party’s base.)

In the Quinnipiac poll, for example, just 21% of self-identified Republicans said the Senate should confirm Jackson.

The Point: Politicians — of both parties — worry about their base voters first, second and often third. Which is why Jackson’s nomination simply won’t attract anywhere near the support in the Senate that public opinion polls suggest it might.

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