Legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky writes in the LA Times that the Supreme Court is a critical issue in the presidential campaign, although candidates don't always talk as prominently about it as they do other subjects. But if you care about any number of issues, you should care about the Supreme Court. He writes:
So why are the candidates ignoring this issue? Their advisors probably have told them that voters don't care, or at least that it is unlikely to matter to the crucial undecided voters. But this may well be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy because voters won't care unless the candidates choose to make the composition of the courts an important election issue.
But I have seen that audiences do care greatly about the future of abortion rights, the corrosive effects of money in politics, the rights of gays and lesbians to marriage equality and so many other issues that are decided by the courts. All this and so much more will turn on who picks the next Supreme Court justices.
Indeed, a recent survey and two focus groups conducted by Hart Research Associates for People For the American Way, the Alliance For Justice Action Campaign, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights demonstrate that the Supreme Court is an important issue for voters, one that significantly favors President Obama over Mitt Romney.
The survey results show that a majority of independent voters and presidential swing voters say the issue of who will serve on the Supreme Court is an important consideration in their vote this year. According to the survey, what most concerns voters - a full 54 percent - is their worry that Romney will nominate justices who will consistently favor corporations over ordinary Americans.
Independent voters have greater confidence in President Obama than they do in Mitt Romney with respect to Supreme Court nominations. The president has an 18-point advantage among swing voters. Independent women prefer Obama over Romney on this score by 19 points. Among women swing voters, that advantage grows to 26 points. The survey analysis explains:
The president's advantage over Romney rests on two main elements. First, voters believe Obama (61%) is much more likely than Romney (39%) to appoint justices who "would uphold the progress we have made on civil rights and women's rights." Second, most voters trust Obama (59%) rather than Romney (41%) to choose justices who "will protect the rights of average people, not just the wealthy and powerful." Among swing voters, Obama enjoys commanding advantages of 55 points and 49 points, respectively, on these two dimensions.
That is why Vice President Biden brings up the Supreme Court in venues ranging from the vice presidential debate in Kentucky to campaign rallies in Iowa. That is why President Obama talked about the Court in a recent Rolling Stone interview published last week.
Romney knows that the Supreme Court is a winning issue for President Obama.