pat toomey

The Long, Sophisticated Fight to Come Over the Supreme Court Opening

Kirk is the only Republican senator in a tough re-election race to not take a position on whether Obama should fill Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court or leave it to his successor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republican and Democratic Senate campaigns have already clashed – fiercely – over when and how to confirm a new Supreme Court justice.  

But those early rhetorical salvos are only the beginning of what will be a sustained effort to take advantage of the court’s sudden opening, one that operatives from both parties say could reshape fundraising, turnout operations and targeted media to diehard partisans and swing voters alike. The blunt message from some of them: The terrain of the 2016 Senate election changed when Antonin Scalia died, and now it’s up to the party committees and their allied campaigns to recalibrate their strategy and tactics or be left behind.  

Supreme Court Opening: A Dilemma for Swing-State Republicans

Portman expressed his condolences, but didn't stake out a position on whether Obama should appoint a successor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The sudden death of Antonin Scalia and ensuing fight over the process to replace him on the Supreme Court has created a vexing election-year problem for Senate Republicans, who – a mere nine months before November – are now caught between the competing demands of their conservative allies and moderate voters who could make-or-break the party’s already imperiled majority.  

In what might amount to their most high-profile decision of their campaigns, vulnerable Republican incumbents can side either with ideological allies who believe viscerally important issues like abortion-rights, immigration reform, and government overreach are at stake – or with moderates who are more broadly interested in lawmakers who lessen government dysfunction and help get things done.  

Toomey First Target of Senate Majority PAC Digital Campaign

Toomey is the first target of the Senate Majority PAC's 1.5 million ad buy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

UPDATED: 3:25 p.m. |  The Senate Majority PAC launched a $1.5 million digital advertising campaign targeting vulnerable Republicans up in 2016, the group told Roll Call on Thursday.  

The first advertisements will begin appearing in Pennsylvania against Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey on Facebook , Twitter and the massive Google ad network used by many websites. “The Republican agenda puts special interests and partisan ideology ahead of what’s best for everyday Americans and Pat Toomey is the poster boy for those misplaced priorities,” said Shripal Shah, a spokesman for Senate Majority PAC.