With the New Hampshire primary now behind us and the presidential race beginning to take shape, history has thrown the nation a curve ball in the form of an opening on the Supreme Court.
Following the primary voting in New Hampshire, the Republican field was narrowed down and conventional wisdom challenged. With the exit of two candidates once thought to be serious contenders, Sen. Rand Paul and Gov. Chris Christie, the Republican field seems destined to narrow to a three-way race.
As for the Democrats, Sen. Sander’s was the favorite to win the state, due to its proximity to his own.
However, his victory by over 50,000 votes may have proven that Clinton, who is still the frontrunner in nationwide polling, is in for a grueling race.
With the future of both parties up in the air due to the vast differences of their candidates, this weekend’s vacancy on the Supreme Court has further intensified the election.
On Feb. 13, Justice Antonin Scalia passed away while vacationing in Texas, reportedly due to natural causes.
Scalia’s departure has left the court now tied between liberals and conservatives, with Justice Anthony Kennedy’s swing vote becoming even more influential.
The Court’s opening has greatly increased intensity among candidates because the odds of President Obama appointing Scalia’s successor seem dim.
Within less than 24 hours of Scalia’s death, leading Republicans announced their commitment to blocking Senate confirmation of anyone the president puts forward.
Republicans have argued that a precedent has been set for presidents to not appoint Supreme Court Justices in their final year of office. However, President Reagan appointed a Justice in his final year though the contentious process began about half a year earlier.
While Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has sought to broker a deal to put forward a nominee palatable to conservatives, his chances in the current political environment seem slim.
As such, it appears likely that voters will have a say in not just the next president, but Scalia’s successor as well.
No matter who the next President is, he or she will have considerable trouble appointing a successor if partisanship and gridlock remain at the degree they are now.