The battle over U.S. President Barack Obama's latest Supreme Court nominee came into sharper focus Tuesday when Senator Mark Kirk became the first Republican to meet with Judge Merrick Garland, and the high court itself deadlocked on a major labor union case.
In calling for hearings and a vote on the Garland nomination, Kirk is bucking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans who insist the next president pick the high court nominee.
"McConnell's biggest concern is making sure that he holds onto power in the Senate," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell, who argues that Garland's fate could be determined by Republican perceptions of the presidential campaign.
"At this point, there is no chance of these guys [Senate Republicans] giving in," O'Connell said. "If [Donald] Trump or [Ted] Cruz or whoever has no chance [of winning in November], then you are much more likely to see McConnell try to make a deal."
"Republican control of the Senate pretty much lives and dies with the Republican presidential nominee's ability to win the White House," he added. "Many of these key Senate races are actually in presidential battleground states."