Trump finds a new campaign message after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death: ‘Fill the seat’

MILWAUKEE — President Donald Trump capitalized on the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Saturday night, using the now-open Supreme Court seat to rally his supporters as the president seeks to jolt his campaign in the final few weeks of an election that has shown him consistently running behind his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.

“Article II of our Constitution says that the president shall nominate justices of the Supreme Court. I don’t think it can be any more clear, can it? I don’t think so,” Trump said, speaking at an airport hangar in Fayetteville, North Carolina, as a crowd of supporters energetically chanted “Fill the seat!”

“I love that chant,” Trump said. “There’s a lot of genius in that chant.”

For weeks, Trump had hit an increasingly predictable note on the campaign trail, focusing on “law and order” and depicting an unrecognizable portrait of a country rebounding from the coronavirus.

But the hyperbolic imagery of a country overrun by looters and untouched by the pandemic has not seemed to strike a winning chord with Americans. Trump has trailed Biden in national polls and key battleground state polls, including North Carolina where Biden leads by roughly one percentage points.

Trump, who opened his remarks by briefly remembering Ginsburg as a “legal giant,” framed his desire to confirm a new justice before the January inauguration as “moral duty” to fulfill promises made to voters.

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“I will be putting forth a nominee next week. It will be a woman,” Trump announced. “We have numerous women on the list.”

The Republican Party has been fiercely criticized by Democrats for taking a hypocritical approach to filling Ginsburg’s seat. After the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February of 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, arguing that it was too close to the election and voters should have a say. Now, just weeks before Election Day, McConnell plans to move ahead with Trump’s nominee.

The Republican Party’s 2016 stance could make it difficult for some GOP Senators facing tough re-elections to support Trump’s nominee this close to the election. Trump sought to put pressure on those Senators Saturday night.

“What do you think Thom, Thom Tillis?,” Trump asked the North Carolina Senator of his ability to nominate a Justice. Tillis has trailed his Democratic opponent in nearly every single poll and he is on record from 2016 saying that voters should have a say on the court.

“So we win an election, and those are the consequences,” Trump said.

Trump also spent much of his speech basking in his favorite campaign trail topics: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Hunter Biden, China, socialism, and Space Force, among others. Trump, who tends to speak for a longer period of time when he is in a good mood, addressed the crowd for a little under two hours.

“Maybe I’ll sign an executive order that you cannot have him as your president,” Trump said of Biden, spreading outlandish claims that Biden would get some sort of injection — “big fat shot in the ass” — to help his debate performance.

“He is the worst candidate. The dumbest of all candidates,” Trump continued. “He is the worst candidate in the history of presidential politics.”

The number of lives lost to Covid-19 in the U.S. topped 200,000 on Saturday, but Trump made no mention of the rising death toll.

Instead, Trump promised his supporters, all of whom were breaking North Carolina coronavirus guidelines by attending the rally, that “next year will be the greatest year in our country, it’s headed that way.”

“Without the vaccine, we’re rounding the turn,” Trump claimed. “With the vaccine, it will just speed it up.”

Trump is expected to continue campaigning next week, holding rallies in Pennsylvania and Florida.

“This is not, just so you know, the crowd of a man who is coming in second,” Trump said Saturday night.

Image: Lauren EganLauren Egan

Lauren Egan is a reporter for NBC News based in Washington.

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