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With the first televised debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden set to take place on Tuesday night, the appointment of Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court has suddenly pushed the presidential campaign into the background of American political affairs. Interview with Jean-Éric Branaa, researcher and author of a biography of the former vice-president of Barack Obama.
Just over a month before the US presidential election on November 3, the race for the White House appears to have come to a standstill with the death of Supreme Court dean Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the appointment, Saturday, September 26, of Amy Coney Barrett, proposed by Donald Trump to replace it.
Yet the outgoing president and his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, are due to debate for the first time on Fox News, Tuesday, September 29, but news channels are looping on the likely future Conservative Supreme Court judge and the process of confirmation to come to the Senate.
>> To read and see on France24.com: Amy Coney Barrett “an excellent choice” for the Supreme Court, according to supporters of Donald Trump
The parliamentary hearings of the designated judge, which must begin on October 12, will therefore punctuate the campaign until the vote on her name, which the Republicans hope to hold just a few days before the presidential election, believes Jean-Éric Branaa, author of “Joe Biden”, biography of the former vice-president of Barack Obama (Nouveau Monde editions, to be published on October 7), interviewed by France 24.
France 24: What does the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett change in the race for the White House?
Jean-Éric Branaa: First obvious observation: supporters of Donald Trump are galvanized by this appointment. It goes way beyond her staunch supporters, as Amy Coney Barrett ticks all the right boxes in the Conservative electorate. However, this nomination does not change the situation of the presidential election, as voters delighted with the president’s choice were already leaning towards the Republican side. It is only among Catholics that this could have consequences. This electorate, who voted Trump in 2016, seemed closer this year to Joe Biden, himself a Catholic. Amy Coney Barrett was a judge at the Court of Appeal of 7e circuit, which brings together Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. And if Illinois seems won over to Joe Biden and Indiana to Donald Trump, Wisconsin, where there are 25% Catholics, remains open. This appointment could therefore decide a handful of voters in this key state.
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Amy Coney Barrett is known for her conservative positions on abortion or gun possession. Will his appointment bring these subjects to light?
No, because the other consequence of his appointment is that the campaign is now over. Candidates and the media only talk about the Supreme Court, campaign themes have taken a back seat. We end up with a race for the White House blocked with two determined camps between pro-Trump and anti-Trump. It’s only the televised debates that will talk about other things. But it will be very reduced, since Tuesday evening, each topic will be discussed for fifteen minutes maximum. It’s pretty short.
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In this context, what strategy was chosen by Joe Biden?
He asks senators not to confirm Amy Coney Barrett. He hopes to redo Robert Bork’s coup: in 1987, Ronald Reagan appointed this judge to the Supreme Court, and Joe Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, responsible for voting on his confirmation. The hearings carried out then gave rise to an unprecedented ideological confrontation. Robert Bork was particularly roughed up by Joe Biden and his candidacy ended up being rejected. So he would like history to repeat itself. He will be able to count on his running mate, Kamala Harris, vice-president of the Judicial Committee, to lead the battle. But with Republicans in the majority in the Senate, this strategy is unlikely to work.
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A third of senators are campaigning for re-election as well. Will the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett have an impact on them?
Yes, because a majority of Americans believe that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat should not be replaced until after the presidential election. Republican senators, whose re-election is not guaranteed, such as Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Thom Tillis (North Carolina) or Joni Ernst (Iowa), could therefore lose voters if they actually decided to lead the confirmation process to completion. This is something unexpected, as no one imagined the Senate could swing to the Democrats’ side, but Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation is a game-changer. It is still unlikely, but it is no longer unthinkable.