At the Los Angeles Times, "Scalia's death puts Supreme Court at the center of the presidential campaign":
Justice Antonin Scalia's death has turned a second-tier topic into a central facet of the 2016 presidential campaign: Among the new president's first acts likely will be nominating a justice who will determine the balance of power on the Supreme Court.Keep reading.
Potential court openings haven't dominated debates thus far in the campaign, and voters have not often raised it, aside from a suggestion to Hillary Clinton that, if elected, she'd appoint President Obama. But Scalia's death changes all that, vaulting into prominence a choice that will determine the country's course on voting rights, abortion, immigration, campaign finance, the environment and other contentious issues.
The battle lines were drawn within minutes of the death announcement, with Obama saying he would nominate a successor and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who controls the schedule, saying that the Senate should not take up an appointment in the 11 months remaining in the president's term. Republican presidential candidates immediately backed McConnell. Democrats objected, arguing that selecting a justice is Obama's job — and deciding in prompt fashion is the Senate's.
The political ramifications are many: Democrats and Republicans will have an issue around which to rally voters who might have considered the court a secondary issue, if that. Obama will have a chance to appoint a nominee who could influence political races up and down the ticket by appealing to a specific demographic group, even if the nominee is not ultimately confirmed.
Candidates in hot Senate races will be pressed to say how they would vote on Obama's pick, since those elections will determine who controls the nomination process next year. And voters will witness a contemporaneous example of the Washington gridlock that already has inflamed anger on both sides in this presidential campaign.
“Maybe a Supreme Court vacancy will remind people that presidential elections are not circuses — they really are important,” said Charlie Cook, a nonpartisan political analyst. “The stakes just went up, and now everyone knows it.”