WASHINGTON -- A day after dropping out of a bitter presidential primary against GOP front-runner Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) still thinks the next president should fill the Supreme Court vacancy -- even as some conservatives are starting to see President Barack Obama's nominee as their best hope.
As of Tuesday night, it's all but decided that former Democratic Secretary of State and U.S. senator Hillary Clinton will go up against the TV reality star in November. It's not the way the GOP wanted this to go. Despite sweeping in the primaries, Trump is wildly unpopular in polls -- even more than Clinton -- and, at least based on current numbers, isn't likely to win the general election.
Consider what that means for filling the Supreme Court seat. Republicans have a choice between confirming Obama's pick, Merrick Garland, a moderate middle-aged guy, or Clinton's nominee, a potentially younger and more progressive pick than Garland. Add to the mix that Democrats have a shot at reclaiming the Senate majority in November, which would put Republicans in an even weaker position for filling the court seat. In this scenario, Garland is clearly the better option.
But Cruz, who was hoping to be the guy making decisions at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. next year, is sticking with his party's argument that Obama shouldn't get to make decisions about the Supreme Court because he's in his last year in office.
"His position as expressed in his WSJ op/ed is not changed," Cruz spokesman Phil Novack told The Huffington Post on Wednesday. He's referring to a Wall Street Journal piece by Cruz, outlining the GOP's strategy of blocking Garland.
The hitch for Republicans is that even if Trump does win, nobody really knows who he would put on the court. All he's said so far is that he would defer to the conservative Heritage Foundation for ideas. Even Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is leading the blockade against Obama's pick, conceded "it's a gamble" to hold the Supreme Court seat open for Trump.
It's a potential lose-lose scenario for the GOP. Some conservatives rang the alarm bells about this Tuesday as Trump became the party's presumptive nominee.
Those concerns don't seem to be translating on Capitol Hill. The Huffington Post reached out to all 24 Republican senators* up for re-election to see if they prefer holding the court seat open for Clinton or Trump instead of voting on Obama's nominee. A handful responded. They all said yes.
"Senator Scott believes the next President should choose who should fill the vacancy," said Sean Smith, spokesman for Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.).
"Senator Lankford feels the same regarding Judge Garland," said Darrell Jordan, spokesman for Sen. Jim Lankford (Okla.). "No hearings. No vote."
"His position remains the same," said Kevin Smith, spokesman for Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio).
"Senator Coats continues to believe the right thing to do is to give the American people a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice," said Matt Lahr, spokesman for Sen. Dan Coats (Ind.).
*Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has already said Garland should get a vote.