Republicans Face Unsteady Path After Charleston Shooting

NYT FDJonathan Martin 6/22/2015

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Good Monday morning from Washington. Though trade is still a source of gamesmanship and huge Supreme Court decisions could come down at any moment, all eyes are on Charleston, S.C., where crowds on Sunday spilled out of the church in which nine black churchgoers were killed on Wednesday by a white gunman.

If it were up to most of the Republican presidential candidates, the campaign would be centered on what they perceive as President Obama’s shortcomings, the threat of Islamic terrorism and questions about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ethics. But instead, the next few weeks are likely to be dominated by a host of issues that will test their ability to balance the competing demands of conservative primary voters and the general electorate.

First, there was Pope Francisencyclical on the threat of climate change, which thrust into the campaign a topic that many Republicans have sought to dodge.

Then came last week’s massacre of nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C., which has prompted difficult questions about gun violence, racial discrimination and the displaying of the Confederate flag.

But if that was not enough to put them on the defensive, now comes the Supreme Court, which is expected to rule in the next two weeks on two cases likely to create a new round of difficult questions for the Republicans.

There is the matter of how to replace the health insurance of millions of Americans who could lose their coverage if the court strikes down the part of Affordable Care Act that provides subsidies to individuals in states that rely on the federal insurance marketplace. And there is the prospect that the court could effectively legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, prompting the question of whether (and how) the Republican candidates would fight such a decision.

In sports, this is called playing an away game. These issues do not make up the terrain on which Republicans wish to contest this election.

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What We’re Watching This Week

  • This is the week that Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is expected to add his name to the long list of Republican presidential candidates.

  • The candidates who are senators — Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, all Republicans, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a Democrat, will be tied up in Washington for much of the week. Mrs. Clinton will be in Virginia on Friday, while also late in the week, Mr. Cruz, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, and Donald J. Trump will be in Iowa, as will Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, a Republican, who will make his first visit to the state, despite not quite being a candidate yet, to in part gauge its interest in him.

  • Amid tensions between the United States and China over the cybertheft of personal information from 14 million federal workers, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and Secretary of State John Kerry will host the seventh United States-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, through Wednesday.