WASHINGTON — The declarations of political war started coming fast as President Trump stepped to the podium in the Rose Garden of the White House on Saturday evening to announce his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
By the time she had finished her speech accepting the nomination, less than 30 minutes later, more than a dozen groups supporting and opposing her nomination had announced, or were poised to announce, advertising and grass-roots advocacy campaigns that were expected to bombard airwaves, Facebook feeds and Senate inboxes.
If activists’ fervor and spending commitments hold, the battle over Judge Barrett’s nomination could near $40 million in spending — and potentially much more — and help define the final five weeks of the presidential campaign between Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The goal is ostensibly to try to shape the Senate vote on Judge Barrett’s nomination but, barring some unforeseen development or revelation, there is little expectation that Democrats will be able to stop the Republican-controlled Senate from confirming the judge, who has served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since November 2017.
Still, partisans on both sides have not made a secret of their plans to use the confirmation fight for political gain.
For Democrats, it is a chance to rally their base, and donors, by highlighting the suddenly very real prospect of a Republican president and Senate delivering a long-lasting conservative Supreme Court majority that could strike down some of the hardest-fought victories of the last half-century, including the Affordable Care Act and the right to an abortion.
For Republicans, it represents an opportunity to secure support from leery conservatives who may have drifted from Mr. Trump, and to energize core parts of the Republican base — including evangelical and Catholic voters — by elevating issues of religion and accusing Democrats of religious intolerance for opposing Judge Barrett, an observant Catholic who is a member of a self-described charismatic Christian community called People of Praise.
Leading Democrats and their allies have signaled that they intend to steer clear of personal criticisms of Judge Barrett, eager to avoid a conservative backlash like the one that emerged in response to Democratic questioning during her 2017 Senate confirmation hearing. During that hearing, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told the judge that “the dogma lives loudly within you.”
A repeat, Democrats fear, could hurt Mr. Biden, a Catholic himself who openly discusses his faith and hopes to win over Catholic voters despite Mr. Trump’s strong performance with them four years ago.
Mr. Biden’s allies have mostly approached the subject more cautiously and obliquely, raising Judge Barrett’s religious beliefs primarily in the context of her jurisprudence and her associations.
The Democratic super PAC American Bridge, which has through Sunday spent more than $36 million opposing Mr. Trump, released an opposition research file highlighting Judge Barrett’s affiliations with religious conservative groups that oppose abortion rights. The file included the claim that she was a member of a Trump-allied conservative legal nonprofit group called the Thomas More Society, which is suing to block Democratic cities from accepting private funds to administer elections during the pandemic, arguing it would help Mr. Biden’s campaign. (American Bridge did not cite any evidence for the claim that Judge Barrett was a member of the Thomas More Society, and removed it after being asked about it by The New York Times.)
The research file also highlighted a scholarly paper Judge Barrett helped to write in the late 1990s about how the Catholic Church’s campaign against capital punishment “puts Catholic judges in a bind” between their oath to enforce the death penalty and their obligation “to adhere to their church’s teaching on moral matters.”
But some Democrats have been more pointed in calling attention to Judge Barrett’s faith. Katie Hill, a former congresswoman from California who runs a political action committee supporting Democratic women, wrote on Twitter last week that Judge Barrett “comes from a religion that is straight out of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’” — the dystopian novel and television series about a totalitarian state that has overthrown the United States government — “because of course she does,” adding an expletive for emphasis.
Ms. Hill said in an email on Sunday that her political action committee, HER Time, was working to rally opposition to Judge Barrett’s confirmation, and that questions about whether the judge “will impose her faith on the American people” were fair game. “Someone’s religion is important when their religious beliefs are part of the way they make decisions that come before that court,” Ms. Hill said, accusing Judge Barrett of holding “anti-women, anti-L.G.B.T.Q. positions, which are rooted in her religion” and saying they would “factor into her decisions on the court.”
Republicans have eagerly highlighted similar attacks, as well as examples of liberals scrutinizing Judge Barrett’s family — she has seven children, including two adopted from Haiti.
Mr. Trump, at a White House news conference on Sunday afternoon, accused Democrats of “really brazenly attacking Judge Barrett for, again, her faith.” Singling out Senator Feinstein, the president said, “I think they ought to treat religion with much more respect.”
The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List on Saturday evening began a digital advertising campaign featuring a one-minute video that calls attention to Judge Barrett’s legal bona fides and religious background, and accuses Democrats of “attacking her faith.” The ad is part of what the group says will be “a seven-figure investment” supporting Judge Barrett’s confirmation.
The White House has encouraged social and religious conservative groups to focus on Judge Barrett’s personal life in their campaigns supporting her confirmation. During a private conference call with more than 500 representatives of social and religious conservative groups an hour after her Rose Garden speech, senior White House staff members emphasized her family and pointed out social media posts from Republicans that did the same, including a tweet from Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, praising her devotion to “faith, family, and the U.S. Constitution.”
Douglas L. Hoelscher, the director of the White House’s office of intergovernmental affairs, urged the groups to pull out all of the stops in support of a frenzied push to speed the nomination through the Senate in the weeks before Election Day.
“We really appreciate our stakeholders already rolling up their sleeves and engaging to have their voice added to a positive echo for the president’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett,” Mr. Hoelscher said. “We will come back to you to help us along the way over the next month.”
He added, “We need to have your voice in the fight and we know you’re ready for that fight.”
Allied groups on the Democratic side are no less ready.
About two minutes into Mr. Trump’s introduction of Judge Barrett, the liberal group Demand Justice sent an email to its supporters urging them to “chip in immediately to put pressure on Senators to vote NO on confirming Amy Coney Barrett.”
The group pledged last week to spend $10 million to try to block the confirmation of any justice before the presidential inauguration in January, and to target vulnerable Republican senators who support such a nomination. Even before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg created the Supreme Court vacancy, Demand Justice had begun a $2 million digital advertising campaign in July, trying to elevate the court as an issue in competitive states in the presidential race.
Those ads are unlikely to focus on Judge Barrett’s religious beliefs, according to Brian Fallon, the group’s executive director. He issued a statement last week saying that his group had “zero interest” in raising questions about the nominee’s Catholic faith.
On the right, the planned campaigns by Trump-allied groups to defend Judge Barrett will be expensive. The Republican National Committee said on Saturday that it was kicking off a $10 million effort, which will include a digital ad campaign and a get-out-the-vote operation that the party’s chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, said would “aggressively promote the qualifications of Judge Barrett, and use the issue to galvanize voters.”
America First Policies, a nonprofit group started by allies of Mr. Trump, on Saturday night announced national television, digital and direct-mail advertising buys of more than $5 million. The first television advertisement in the group’s campaign, featuring praise for Judge Barrett from the faculty at Notre Dame Law School, where she is a professor, is set to air on Tuesday during the first debate between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden.
Brian O. Walsh, the group’s president, said the $5 million was the group’s starting point, and that it was prepared to spend more if necessary. He emphasized the importance of introducing Judge Barrett to the country “on our terms.”
Privately, conservative activists concede that the push to support Judge Barrett stands little chance of affecting the outcome, since there are few senators whose votes are seen as being in play and whom conservatives believe they can effectively sway to vote yes. Few, if any, Democrats are likely to support the nomination, and a campaign targeting Republicans like Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who has said she opposes filling the vacancy before the election, could backfire by further endangering her chances of winning another term and Republicans’ hopes of holding onto the Senate.
During the earlier battles over the confirmations of Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Neil M. Gorsuch, control of the Senate was not hanging in the balance. Conservative activists said that with so much on the line now, they would have to take a more targeted and cautious approach.
For some groups, the spending on the nomination fight might have an added tax benefit, helping them fulfill requirements that they spend more than half of their annual budgets for purposes other than partisan politics. Ads about the Supreme Court could qualify as nonpartisan, even if they come across as supporting one party or the other.
The anti-tax Club for Growth and the group Catholic Vote are expected to spend money as part of the broader effort, a person familiar with the planning said.
The religious conservative group American Principles Project began a new campaign through the website GloriousACB.org, while the most active conservative group in court fights, the Judicial Crisis Network, pledged to spend $10 million on ads and a “grass-roots mobilization campaign” supporting Judge Barrett. The Judicial Crisis Network’s first ad supporting Judge Barrett’s confirmation casts Democrats who are arguing against the nomination as “extremists” who are “shamefully trying to change the facts” about quickly confirming a Supreme Court justice in an election year.
Carrie Severino, the president of the Judicial Crisis Network, said her group had become more battle-hardened after the fight over Justice Kavanaugh in 2018. “We’re ready for creative minds among Democrats” to depict Judge Barrett in a negative light, she said.
On a videoconference with activists on Saturday night, Tim Phillips, the president of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be, in all candor, a big battle — we know that, given the polarization these days in politics.”
The call came as the group, funded by the political network created by the industrialist billionaires Charles and David Koch, announced “a significant national ad campaign” supporting Judge Barrett’s confirmation in 10 states in which there are competitive Senate races. The advertising will complement a push encouraging the group’s activists around the country to call their senators to urge them to support the nomination.
In the videoconference, Casey Mattox, Americans for Prosperity’s vice president for legal and judicial strategy, urged activists to act quickly “because this is going to be a pretty compressed time frame as we go through this process.”
He added, “We don’t have a lot of time with a nomination like this.”