WASHINGTON - The Republican Party is launching a campaign to try to derail President Barack Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, teaming up with a conservative opposition research group to target vulnerable Democrats and impugn whomever Obama picks.
A task force housed within the Republican National Committee will orchestrate attack ads, petitions and media outreach to bolster a strategy that Senate Republicans adopted as soon as Justice Antonin Scalia died last month: refusing to consider an Obama nominee out of hopes that the next president will be a Republican.
The RNC will contract with America Rising Squared, an outside group targeting Democrats that's run by a longtime aide to GOP Sen. John McCain. GOP chairman Reince Priebus said it would be the most comprehensive judicial response effort in the party's history.
Priebus said the RNC would "make sure Democrats have to answer to the American people for why they don't want voters to have a say in this process."
Obama is expected to announce his pick as early as this week, touching off a heated election-year battle as Obama and Democrats try to pressure Republicans into relenting and allowing hearings and a vote. Advocacy groups on both sides are primed to unleash an onslaught of activity aimed at rallying public support, and a number of former top Obama advisers have been drafted to run the Democratic effort.
RNC officials said that in addition to scouring the nominee's history for anything that can be used against him or her, the party will also work to portray Democrats as hypocritical, dredging up comments that Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats made in previous years suggesting presidents shouldn't ram through nominees to the high court in the midst of an election.
The party has already been looking into candidates on Obama's short-list and will oppose him or her with radio and digital ads, petitions and research documents. The committee is also lining up "surrogates" who will make the case in the media.
Key to the GOP's strategy will be targeting Democrats facing tough races over their insistence that Obama, in his final months in office, gets to pick a justice that could reshape the court's ideological balance for decades. In addition to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the RNC said it would target Democratic Senate candidates in Colorado, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania, among others. The party also plans to target Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.