Clinton’s court pledge revives interest in Trump
Conservatives, evangelicals hear reason to vote for GOP Political odds traders ride out bumpy presidential election
ST. LOUIS | Hillary Clinton ended up helping Donald Trump repair some of the damage from his lewd comments about women this weekend when she ran hard left on the Supreme Court — reinforcing the one overriding reason conservative Republicans have for voting for their flawed presidential nominee.
Her promise to use Supreme Court nominations to push a left-wing agenda did more than anything Mr. Trump said during the debate to win back his supporters, conservative leaders said. That included evangelical voters who were repulsed by a 2005 videotape that surfaced over the weekend showing the Republican nominee using vulgar language to boast of his sexual exploits.
“I believe it justifies overriding other concerns like those generated by this tape,” said the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.
“Virtue exercised in our own personal choices is important, but policies contain or contradict virtues as well, and there is a corruption in our public policy right now,” he said. “So it is not only that it outweighs the personal failing, of which of course he is repudiated himself and is repenting of, but corruption and immoral outrageous are also incarnated in public policies.”
Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, never mentioned the Constitution in her answer to a question about the justices she would nominate. Instead, she vowed to pick judges who would pursue abortion rights and impose new carve-outs of First Amendment protections for political speech.
“I have very clear views about what I want to see to kind of change the balance on the Supreme Court,” Mrs. Clinton said during the debate.
Mr. Trump pledged that as president he would nominate “people that will respect the Constitution of the United States,” including the Second Amendment.
“While that exchange didn’t make headlines, it may have been the most important exchange of the evening,” said Gary Bauer, president of the advocacy group American Values.
He said Mrs. Clinton’s pledge is a wake-up call for all Republican voters.
“Every part of the Republican coalition — economic conservatives, national defense conservatives and social conservatives — have reason to fear a Supreme Court with one to three more appointments like the ones that Barack Obama has already put on the court,” he said. “Voters that don’t understand that are running the risk of losing everything that they hold dear because of a 10-year-old tape with inappropriate language on it.”
He said values voters are particularly important to Mr. Trump.
“It is a narrowly divided country, and it doesn’t take much. It only takes peeling away 1 percent of values voters or causing a couple percent to stay home,” said Mr. Bauer. “So it is obviously a worrisome situation.”
The death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February added urgency to the Supreme Court issue. Senate Republicans’ refusal to act on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, a federal appellate judge, guarantees that the next president will make at least one appointment to the high court.
The advanced ages of several justices have invited speculation that the next president could make two more nominations to the Supreme Court.
Virginia radio show host John Fredericks told Donald Trump in April 2015 that he could win the Republican nomination if he got into the presidential race — and said he got ridiculed.
But Mr. Fredericks put his money where his mouth was, buying shares on Mr. Trump in the political predictions markets at 100-1 odds to win the nomination and 200-1 odds to win the White House. He is now looking at a major payday if Mr. Trump can pull off a Hail Mary comeback.
“I don’t do ‘I told you so,’ but obviously I’m in the prediction business, so I’m not shy about telling people when I’m right, and I do have a high percentage of being right, as you know,” said Mr. Fredericks, who is now vice chairman of Mr. Trump’s Virginia campaign.
A sort of fantasy league for politicos, predictions markets have become features of campaigns in recent years. PredictIt, the market Mr. Fredericks used, launched three days before the 2015 midterm elections, and now boasts 150,000 traders who have signed up, including about 70,000 who are active.
This year’s crazy race has given them plenty to worry about.
On the one hand is Hillary Clinton, who was the front-runner from the start but struggled to survive a weak Democratic field. Then there was Mr. Trump, the bombastic political novice who managed to outlast 16 other candidates to win the Republican nomination.
Jimmy Wagner, a lawyer from the New York City area who recently won more than $20,000 playing fantasy football, has about $750 on Mr. Trump to win the general election.
But he hedged his bets early in the Republican primary race by also putting cash on Sen. Rand Paul.
“I do believe in the message that both of those nominees were speaking about, and that’s sort of what
Conservatives are determined to balance Mr. Obama’s two recent Supreme Court appointments — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — to protect against efforts to weaken Second Amendment gun rights and Fifth Amendment property rights, which some view as under siege from federal regulators such as those at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Overriding the high court’s decisions that made samesex marriage and abortion the law of the land are also on conservatives’ wish list for the court.
The vacancy on the nine-member bench has highlighted the court’s close ideological divide. The justices deadlocked 4-4 in June on a challenge to Mr. Obama’s executive amnesty for some illegal immigrants, leaving in place a lower-court ruling that blocked implementation of the president’s plan.
Mr. Trump delivered a strong debate performance at Washington University, but doubts persists about whether it was enough to repair damage wrought by the videotape — much less expand his support to overtake Mrs. Clinton in battleground states.
Democratic strategist Jim Manley said Mrs. Clinton answered the Supreme Court question honestly and had no reason to fear that she unwittingly energized conservative voters.
“These guys are just looking to use any justification they can at this point in time to continue to support Trump,” he makes my mind up when I’m looking to buy into one of these political stocks,” he said.
Like Mr. Fredericks, Mr. Wagner said some in the online community weren’t buying his early bullishness on Mr. Trump.
“PredictIt has a really vibrant community — a lot of very smart people in it — but a lot of them are trolls,” he said. “There are a lot of trolls. … I got called a lot of crazy things.”
Joel Krautter, a lawyer from Montana, said he didn’t put all of his early money on Mr. Trump. He said he also had some on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — the antithesis of the billionaire businessman.
Mr. Krautter also wagered that Vice President Joseph R. Biden would ultimately enter the race for the Democratic nomination. “I’m not some great forecaster,” he said. Mr. Krautter said a 2011 poll showing Mr. Trump running competitively in a would-be Republican field, as well as his outsider status and commanding media presence, led him to believe that the businessman and reality TV star could be a compelling candidate.
“But with everything that’s happened, I didn’t see it going all the way that it has. It’s kind of amazing,” he said.
“I’m a Republican. I won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton, but I’m still undecided on who I’m voting for, given all the comments that have been made along the way,” he said.
In contrast to Mr. Wagner, Mr. Krautter said he invested about $2 in each candidate.
Mr. Fredericks, meanwhile, declined to say how much money he has on his boss to win. He called it “inside baseball.”
Mr. Trump has sagged in public polling in the wake of last week’s revelation of a 2005 tape in which the Republican nominee said he tried but failed to seduce a married celebrity, and talked about groping women’s genitals. He has since apologized for what he called “locker room” talk. said.
Adam Bozzi, a spokesman for End Citizens United, said Mrs. Clinton’s agenda for the Supreme Court has broader appeal than to only far-left voters, especially on his group’s issue.
Voters across the political spectrum applauded Mrs. Clinton’s promise to overturn the Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that allowed unlimited political spending by corporations, associations and unions, said Mr. Bozzi.
Overturn the Citizens United ruling was a centerpiece of Mrs. Clinton’s debate answer.
“Hillary Clinton’s call to reverse Citizens United will energize voters across the country who want to restore a voice for hardworking families in our elections,” said Mr. Bozzi.
The videotape, which caught Mr. Trump on a hot mic talking to “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush aboard a bus en route to a cameo appearance on a soap opera, was the last straw for many Republicans who were uncomfortable with their party’s nominee.
Mr. Trump boasted that he could kiss beautiful women and grab their private parts because he was a celebrity. He also regaled Mr. Bush with a story about his failed attempt to seduce a married women.
Dozens of Republican Party leaders came out in opposition or withdrew their endorsements of Mr. Trump. Some called on him to quit the race, which Mr. Trump firmly refused.