Two major Supreme Court rulings Thursday on immigration and affirmative action could help provide more justification for uneasy Republicans to back his presidential campaign.
While the presumptive GOP nominee has made many in his own party uneasy about supporting a candidate who has stirred racial tensions, exposed a lack of understanding of policy and switched his positions on key issues, concerns about the court’s future course for perhaps a generation has been a rare rallying point for the party.
Trump said as much in his own statement after the tied immigration ruling.
“This split decision also makes clear what is at stake in November. The election, and the Supreme Court appointments that come with it will decide whether or not we have a border and, hence, a country,” Trump wrote in the statement.
Since the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the importance of the Supreme Court has been an increasingly common reason cited by concerned Republicans to get behind the presumptive nominee.
GOP donor Jerry Mores, an owner of a trucking company, told skeptical Republicans at a gathering in Park City hosted by former presidential nominee Mitt Romney that the party must support to Trump because of the court.
“The most important thing for the Republican party is the Supreme Court. I think that’s one, two and three,” Mores said. “I think we’ve won on that hand," he added, noting that Trump has taken steps in that direction.
In fact, Trump has released a list of nearly a dozen names of people he’d consider nominating for the Supreme Court should he win the presidency. The list largely mirrors the wish list of the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. He said earlier this week that he would release another four names in the near future.
Once Trump released that list, some conservatives on the fence over Trump breathed easier, indicating that his list made him an acceptable candidate.
But like many issues, it took Trump to grow into a position acceptable to Republicans. He had previously said his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, who conservatives consider a liberal federal judge in Pennsylvania, would be a good justice.
If President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, is not confirmed by the Senate, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he won’t be, the next president will appoint at least one Supreme Court justice. But some think the next president could choose up to four nominees, determining the makeup of the court for perhaps twenty years.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, also said that Trump’s position on the Supreme Court was a reason she came around to backing him.
“When he said several times today ‘pro-life Supreme Court justice’ - that’s the first time I’ve ever heard a candidate use those words together in one sentence,” she said, referring to his appeal to evangelicals at a recent meeting in New York.
But for some conservatives, not even the balance of the Supreme Court is enough to persuade them.
Katie Packer, founder of Our Principles PAC, which worked to defeat Trump in the primaries, said that it would be “foolish” to trust what Trump says.
“The bottom line with Trump is that he is a chronic, compulsive liar. So we have no idea what he'll do if elected,” Packer said.
Joe Hicks, a member of Project 21, a conservative black leadership network, said "there is reason to fear the future."
"One presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, is poised to populate the Court with liberal nominees who believe the Constitution is a 'living document,' while the other, Donald Trump, appears woefully ignorant about the issues involved, is ideologically-erratic," Hicks said.