WASHINGTON - The looming Senate fight over confirming a Supreme Court nominee will put members of the Judiciary Committee in the spotlight, particularly Texas Republican John Cornyn, a former state Supreme Court judge.
Cornyn's reelection campaign against Air Force veteran MJ Hegar has not been one of the marquee races in the battle for control of the Senate this year, partly because Hegar has not posted the same eye-popping fundraising totals as Democratic contenders in other states. The limited number of polls have also shown her doing worse against Cornyn than her party's nominee at the top of the ticket, former Vice President Joe Biden, does against President Donald Trump.
But that could change if the Supreme Court battle pushes voters, especially suburban women, further into their partisan corners as Republican efforts to confirm Trump's replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg start to dominate news coverage.
Asked at the Capitol on Monday how the Supreme Court vacancy could affect his reelection, Cornyn told CQ Roll Call it would be a "major factor."
"But I can see it cutting both ways, in terms of people's response," he added. "They seem pretty polarized already."
Texas, which Trump won by 9 points in 2016, is expected to be competitive this year, but it isn't at the top of most Democrats' list of potential pickup opportunities. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Senate race Lean Republican.
But Democrats in Texas believe they may be at a turning point, citing a surge of new voter registrations and GOP Sen. Ted Cruz's narrow reelection win two year ago. Democrats' largest hurdle is the state's size and price tag, since candidates have to raise their name identification across 20 different media markets. Cruz's 2018 opponent, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, raised a record $80 million, and still fell short by 3 points.
Money remains a significant obstacle for Hegar.
"I still think that MJ winning is a reach," Texas Democratic strategist Matt Angle said. "It's a reach now though, not because of the political makeup of Texas or any political strength of John Cornyn. It's a reach because of finances."
At the end of the second fundraising quarter on June 30, Hegar's campaign had $900,000 on hand while Cornyn's had $14.5 million. Hegar's resources were drained in part by a lengthy primary, which was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. She won the Democratic nomination in mid-July.