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While Democrats are pushing the GOP-led Senate to confirm Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland by the end of President Barack Obama's term, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been resolute in blocking him, saying the next president should fill the high court vacancy. Republicans maintain it's a winning political strategy in a year when some GOP rank and file are struggling with reasons to vote for their nominee.
"I would argue that it's one of the few ties that binds right now in the Republican Party," said Josh Holmes, McConnell's former chief of staff. "It's one of the things that's kept a Republican coalition together that seems to be fraying with Donald Trump."
Trump himself has made the same argument.
"If you really like Donald Trump, that's great, but if you don't, you have to vote for me anyway," Trump told supporters at a rally last month. "You know why? Supreme Court judges, Supreme Court judges. Have no choice ... sorry, sorry, sorry."
The billionaire businessman has made the future ideological balance of the high court a key issue in the campaign, promising to nominate a conservative in the mold of former Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February. He often mentions the issue in campaign speeches, as does his vice presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Pence often spends several minutes of his standard campaign speech reminding crowds of the importance of the court and conservative values. To loud cheers, he warns that a court in Hillary Clinton's hands could push through amnesty for immigrants living in the country illegally and strip individuals' rights to own guns, a reversal of the Second Amendment that Clinton has rejected.
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