At his campaign rally on Saturday night in Fayetteville, N.C., the president boasted about his pending selection, firming up his commitment to picking a woman and leading the crowd in chants of “Fill that seat.” He “polled” the crowd, asking whether it preferred a woman or man and his supporters cheered for a woman.
As they assessed the political implications, Republican strategists said they also believed that the Supreme Court showdown could benefit their fight to hold the Senate majority since the decisive races are being waged in states that Mr. Trump is likely to carry, including Iowa, Georgia and Montana.
But it could present challenges for others facing tough races, like Ms. Collins, Mr. Graham and Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
Mr. Graham once agreed with Ms. Collins but reversed himself on Saturday. In 2016, as he helped block consideration of Mr. Obama’s choice, Mr. Graham said he would do the same if a Republican president had a vacancy in the last year of his first term, “and you could use my words against me and you’d be absolutely right.” In 2018, he reaffirmed that, saying that “we’ll wait to the next election” if an opening occurred in the last year of Mr. Trump’s term.
On Saturday, however, Mr. Graham said he had changed positions for two reasons: because Democrats eliminated the filibuster for circuit court appointments — something they actually did in 2013, three years before making his pledge — and because Democrats “conspired to destroy the life of Brett Kavanaugh” when he was appointed to the Supreme Court two years ago.
“In light of these two events, I will support President @realDonaldTrump in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg,” Mr. Graham wrote on Twitter.
Other Republicans were not quite as definitive. Ms. Loeffler said Mr. Trump “has every right to pick a new justice before the election” but did not say whether the Senate should vote by then. Ms. McSally said, “This U.S. Senate should vote on President Trump’s next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court,” but did not commit to timing. Likewise, Mr. Tillis said that he “will support” whoever Mr. Trump nominates without saying when a vote should happen.