Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisButtigieg stands in as Pence for Harris’s debate practice First presidential debate to cover coronavirus, Supreme Court Harris joins women’s voter mobilization event also featuring Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda MORE (D-Calif.) is set to step into the spotlight as the fight over President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: ‘This is my country’ Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE’s Supreme Court nominee takes over the Senate less than six weeks before the November election.
As both a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and nominee for vice president, Harris will likely be the most closely watched Democrat when the panel questions Trump’s choice to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgPelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare House passes bill to avert shutdown Democrats urge Biden to resist filibuster, court-packing calls MORE.
The ensuing battle will offer her an opportunity to take on a more visible role and draw on her strengths during a campaign in which she has so far maintained a mostly low-key profile. Supreme Court nomination hearings typically draw a comparatively large viewing audience — more than 20 million people watched Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughOvernight Health Care: US coronavirus deaths hit 200,000 | Ginsburg’s death puts future of ObamaCare at risk | Federal panel delays vote on initial COVID-19 vaccine distribution Senate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot Trump says he’ll make Supreme Court pick on Saturday MORE’s hearing on TV alone — giving voters a prime opportunity to see Harris in action after months of a campaign largely waylaid by the pandemic.
But it could also pose risks as Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: ‘This is my country’ Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate Trump attacks Omar for criticizing US: ‘How did you do where you came from?’ MORE seeks to win over more moderate voters in the final weeks leading up to Election Day.
“How do they feel about having her, not Vice President Biden, but Sen. Harris being the lead, front and center, every day arguing against the nominee?” said one Republican strategist. “Essentially trying to dissect and potentially attack a female jurist, conservative or not. There are just a lot of dynamics that are going to be incredibly tricky for her.”
One key question strategists are pondering is how much difference Harris can make at this stage of the race. Democratic strategists are not convinced the hearings will have a significant impact on swing voters, with a dwindling number of undecided voters and mail-in and early voting having already begun in many states.
“I think so much is baked already in the presidential election,” said Michael Gordon, a former Justice Department spokesman and principal at Group Gordon. “I see this as having more of a sway in a handful of Senate races than in the presidential.”
But Democrats say Harris’s role in the hearings can do plenty to galvanize the base, pointing to the $200 million in donations to Democratic candidates in the days since Ginsburg’s death.
And a Marquette University survey taken just before Ginsburg’s death and released Wednesday found 59 percent of Biden’s supporters rate a Supreme Court nomination as very important, compared with 51 percent of Trump’s supporters.
“I suspect the Supreme Court fight won’t move many voters, but I do think it’ll just drive intensity,” said Mike Nellis, founder of Authentic Campaigns and a former senior adviser to Harris’s presidential campaign.
Harris, drawing on her past experience as a prosecutor, has already shown the ability to parlay her role on the Judiciary Committee into money and energy.
The senator notably questioned Attorney General William BarrBill BarrProsecutor says no charges in Michigan toilet voting display Judge rules Snowden to give up millions from book, speeches The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by Facebook – Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy MORE in 2019 when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN’s Toobin warns McCabe is in ‘perilous condition’ with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill’s 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
One clip in particular that went viral showed Harris asking Barr if Trump or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that he open an investigation into anyone, and Barr struggling to give a direct answer.
Harris also garnered attention a year earlier during the Kavanaugh confirmation…