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November 27, 2020
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Trump-allied groups pour $30 million into Barrett’s confirmation to Supreme Court

Conservative non-profit groups plan to spend about $30 million by month’s end advocating Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court, according to people familiar with the activities.

The money has financed a barrage of advertising and grass-roots activity –mostly in battleground states — that’s saturating television screens, social media feeds, Senate offices and roadside stops in the weeks leading to the Nov. 3 election.

The goal is to ensure Barrett’s Senate confirmation to the high court, which could happen as soon as Monday, after a committee vote set for Thursday. But with Democrats all but powerless to block a vote, conservative groups have have sought to turn Barrett into an political asset for President Donald Trump, who trails Democratic challenger Joe Biden both nationally and in swing states.

The spending by the conservative groups could have the side effect of aiding Trump’s campaign, which has fallen well behind Biden’s in fundraising. The former vice president’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee reported having about $177 million on hand at the beginning of October, nearly three times as much as the incumbent president’s re-election effort.

The election has been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and Trump’s response, which polls show voters rate poorly. But Republicans have used the nomination fight to fire up conservatives who may be wary of Trump, especially conservative Roman Catholics and evangelicals, by accusing Democrats of bigotry by focusing on the religious beliefs of Barrett, a devout Catholic.

The Judicial Crisis Network is spending $10 million on a television and digital ad campaign supporting Barrett, the people said. A spot released last week features Barrett speaking during her confirmation hearing about “some the caricatures floating around” about her religious views. Another from Sept. 29 says “Democrats and liberal extremists” attacked Barrett’s faith.

Democratic senators mostly avoided questions about Barrett’s faith during confirmation hearings and instead focused on whether she would strike down Obamacare or the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion-rights ruling. Democrats have used the prospect of those outcomes to rally their strongest supporters before the election.

More than 100 paid field staff from the conservative group Heritage Action for America have run phone banks, knocked on doors and sent mail and text messages to people in North Carolina, Iowa, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, according to the people. The group expects to spend $3.8 million by Election Day and aims to reach 2.5 million voters.

Anti-abortion rights groups, such as Concerned Women for America and the Susan B. Anthony List, have organized events in 10 states that are presidential battlegrounds or have key Senate races. The anti-tax group Club for Growth is spending $5 million on advertising and sending pro-Barrett letters to senators. America First Policies, the non-profit arm of the pro-Trump super political action committee America First Action, is pouring another $5 million into advertising and direct mail backing Barrett.

People affiliated with the groups argue the efforts have helped shape public opinion around the nomination, which allows Republican candidates to use it as a weapon against their Democratic opponents.

A New York Times/Siena College Research Institute poll conducted last week showed 47% of likely voters said the Senate should vote on Barrett’s nomination before the election, compared to 39% who said a vote should only be held if Trump wins a second term. Almost six in 10 said they opposed increasing the size of the Supreme Court in response to Barrett’s confirmation, an idea supported by some on the left but not embraced by Biden, while just over three in 10 said more justices should be added to the bench.

Liberal groups have also spent millions of dollars opposing Barrett’s nomination.

Following the death last month of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Demand Justice promised to spend $10 million opposing confirmation of any Trump nominee before the election. It also began a multimillion-dollar ad campaign opposing Barrett’s confirmation in Iowa, Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina.

Those spots assailed Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for pushing the Barrett nomination through the Senate before the election, with the pandemic still raging. The Democratic super-PAC American Bridge also launched an opposition research “hub” containing information on Barrett’s judicial record.

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