The event that conservatives hoped would reshape the 2020 election is upon us: The Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett began Monday morning and promise to last most of the week. Republicans have regarded her nomination as an opportunity to reinvigorate voters on the right and shift focus away from the coronavirus pandemic.
So far, Judge Barrett’s appointment has not worked out that way. The White House event at which President Trump announced her election became a major transmission point for the coronavirus — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci called it a “super-spreader event” — and at least two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have been infected. Mr. Trump’s bout with the disease, and rising case counts across most of the country, have relegated the Supreme Court fight to the political background.
There is still hope within the G.O.P. that Democrats might fumble the hearings in a way that could be politically useful — a concern some Democrats share, given the apparently diminished capacities of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee. And at the very least, the hearings give Republicans something to talk about besides Mr. Trump and the virus, even if that is where most voters remain focused. That could be no small favor in red states where Senate seats are at stake.
It is unlikely, however, that Mr. Trump will cooperate with efforts to shift the spotlight this week. He is holding a rally tonight in Sanford, Fla. — his first appearance outside Washington since he revealed he tested positive for the coronavirus, even though unanswered questions remain about his medical condition, including about the continued presence of the coronavirus in his body and his ability to transmit it to others. And he plans to campaign in Pennsylvania, Iowa and North Carolina in the coming days.
The question for Democrats — not just Joseph R. Biden Jr. but the party’s whole ticket — may be how much time and political capital they will put into making a strenuous public case against Judge Barrett, at a moment when Mr. Trump continues to serve up generous quantities of easier political fodder for an election that is only weeks away.