The ‘Barbara Lagoa’ Strategy, How Trump Intends to Fill RBG’s Seat and Turn Florida, All At The Same Time

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We had not just received news of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when President Donald Trump already had a list of possible candidates on the table to fill her seat on the Supreme Court.

In what many have interpreted as the most hypocritical move by the Republican Party in recent years, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised that he would submit Trump’s new nominee to the SCOTUS for a vote on the floor of Congress, backing out of his argument against Obama four years ago.

However, the president’s political situation is increasingly delicate. Between more than 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 on his watch, lousy handling of the pandemic, and a storm of political scandals, the President is five points behind his Democratic opponent with only weeks to go before the election.

To make matters worse, the state where he has felt most secure during his entire administration, Florida, is a battleground between conservatives who fear the GOP will end up in disgrace, and a new progressive movement that wants out of this administration at all costs.

But to do so, the president also has a plan: to raise the possibility of a Latina nominee to fill Ginsburg’s seat.

As Politico reported, “prominent Republican politicians” in Florida began an effort over the weekend to convince the president to nominate federal judge Barbara Lagoa to the Supreme Court, a move that could significantly increase his chances of re-election in the swing state.

Among the names behind the effort are Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Matt Gaetz, and Florida campaign manager Susie Wiles.

The Republicans are said to be making the case that the longtime judge and devout Catholic has the legal chops to do the job and the conservative background to appease the GOP base, these people said.

However, Lagoa’s profile as a Cuban-American from Florida could be a decisive strategy for the president.

“If the president picks Barbara Lagoa, they will be dancing salsa with joy in Hialeah well past November,” said Gaetz, referring to Lagoa’s home town, a blue-collar majority Cuban-American city that borders Miami and leans Republican.

Lagoa, a 52-year-old Columbia Law School graduate, served as a senior judge on the Florida Third District Court of Appeals and a judge on the Florida Supreme Court before being confirmed by the Senate to the 11th Circuit in December, 80 votes to 15, including 27 Democrats, Forbes reported.

Lagoa would be unique among the eight current Supreme Court justices as the only one who did not receive a law degree from Harvard or Yale.

Lagoa’s decisions suggest that she would be well within the conservative wing of the court: she opposed an increase in the local minimum wage as a Florida Supreme Court justice and, as a Circuit Court judge, voted in favor of the law requiring ex-offenders to pay public debts before they are allowed to vote.

Trump believes that nominating Lagoa, the daughter of Cuban exiles who fled Fidel Castro’s government, could be an asset to her difficult reelection because of her background and her Florida roots, according to Bloomberg and the New York Times.

A White House aide told The Washington Post that she and Trump could have personal chemistry because she is “feisty.” 

However, the decision is not made as the Washington establishment is leaning more toward Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the other candidate on the president’s list, and who aligns more with the conservative Republican wing that opposes abortion.

Still, as Axios reported, President Trump plans to meet with shortlisted Supreme Court candidate Barbara Lagoa during a campaign visit to Florida on Friday, according to two sources familiar with his plans.