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Tigers’ Lawrence has huge day, misses INT mark

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Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw his first interception in nearly a year on Saturday, falling 14 passes shy of breaking Russell Wilson’s ACC record for most consecutive attempts without an interception.

It was the only blemish in a stellar first half, however, as Lawrence and Clemson put up huge numbers en route to a 73-7 win over Georgia Tech — the largest margin of victory in a conference game in ACC history.

Lawrence, under pressure, was picked off by Zamari Walton after throwing an ill-advised deep pass late in the first quarter. It was Lawrence’s first interception since the first quarter against Louisville on Oct. 19, 2019.

Wilson set the ACC record with 379 consecutive passes without an interception from 2008 to ’09 while he played at NC State. Lawrence’s streak ends at 366 straight passes without an interception.

Lawrence finished with 404 yards, his first career 400 yard passing game, and left the game after the first series of the second half. Clemson’s 73 points its its most in a road game since scoring 94 on Furman in 1915.

His 391 passing yards in the first half was the most by an ACC quarterback in a half over the past five seasons. Lawrence also became the first ACC quarterback with five touchdown passes in a half against a conference opponent since former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd did it twice in 2012.

Clemson’s 52 points was the most by an ACC team in a half of a conference game in the past 15 seasons.

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What Kind Of Supreme Court Justice Will Amy Coney Barrett Be? 

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It’s official: Amy Coney Barrett will be the country’s next Supreme Court justice. She was confirmed by a 52 to 48 vote margin, and will be sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas at the White House tonight — just in time for Election Day.

Barrett’s ascension to the court was incredibly swift — her confirmation hearings started less than a month after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, and this is the closest to an election a Supreme Court confirmation vote has been held. Notably, though, despite this accelerated timeline, Barrett emerged relatively unscathed from her confirmation hearings. This is quite a feat considering both the partisan nature of the hearings and the looming questions over whether the rush to confirm her jeopardizes the court’s legitimacy.

Barrett’s confirmation is incredibly consequential, too, as she will likely shift the center of gravity away from Chief Justice John Roberts and toward the right edge of the court’s conservative wing, which could potentially result in rulings that are significantly outside the mainstream of public opinion.

We won’t have to wait long to see how Barrett rules, either. She faces a slew of hot-button cases right off the bat, including a dispute over religious liberty exemptions, a challenge to the Affordable Care Act and several cases involving controversial Trump administration policies — not to mention any election-related fights that make their way to the court in the next few weeks, plus the fact that Mississippi recently asked the Supreme Court to consider its 15-week abortion ban, which directly challenges Roe v. Wade.

Why Barrett is poised to remake the Supreme Court

As we’ve written before, it’s hard to know exactly how a nominee to the Supreme Court will rule until they’re actually sworn in and begin weighing in on cases. But we do have data on Barrett’s three years as a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and as you can see in the chart below, she was very conservative.

We looked at two separate analyses of her record on the court this month, and we found whether it was in regular opinions or in special en banc decisions in which the entire appeals court ruled together, she was consistently on the right-most edge — if not the most conservative judge on the bench. And she was especially likely to rule in a conservative direction on civil rights issues.

Those findings underscore the idea that Barrett is likely to be a reliable conservative vote on the court. And her confirmation is even more significant because she’s replacing one of the court’s stalwart liberals. If Barrett ends up being ideologically similar to Justice Samuel Alito, who is currently the second-most conservative justice on the Supreme Court, her replacement of Ginsburg could be one of the biggest ideological swings in modern court history.

In this scenario, Justice Brett Kavanaugh would replace Roberts as the court’s new median justice, which could lead to a significant rightward turn on the court, as Roberts is often the lone conservative justice to side with the liberals. He has cast several recent pivotal votes with the liberals, too, including a dispute in which the justices deadlocked 4-4 on whether to halt a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that allowed state officials to count ballots that arrive up to three days late. With Barrett on the court, though, Roberts would lose that “swing justice” role.

In the short term, that means election-related cases could have very different outcomes — even including a new iteration of the Pennsylvania case, which Republican officials recently brought back to the court. And in the long term, conservative legal advocates may respond by bringing even more ambitious cases, questioning long-held precedents.

The hearings could have gone much worse for Barrett — and the court

The idea of confirming anyone to replace Ginsburg before the election was quite unpopular only a few weeks ago. While it’s true that most Supreme Court confirmation hearings are pretty partisan these days, around the time Barrett was named as the nominee, a majority of Americans said they wanted the winner of the election to choose the next justice. And polling by the Economist in mid-October also found that Barrett was the most unpopular nominee in Supreme Court history.

Now, though, Americans may actually have warmed to the idea of Barrett joining the court before Election Day. According to tracking polls by Morning Consult, support for confirming Barrett rose from 37 percent when she was nominated to 51 percent after the hearings were over and a Gallup poll conducted during Barrett’s confirmation hearings found a similar result. Notably, according to that Gallup poll, this was substantially higher than the share who wanted the Senate to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 (41 percent), and is even slightly higher than the support previous nominees since 1987 have received on average (48 percent).

Barrett’s confirmation wasn’t that divisive

Share of Americans who said they were or were not in favor of the Senate confirming each Supreme Court nominee

Nominee In favor Not in favor No opinion
Amy Coney Barrett 51% 46% 3%
Brett Kavanaugh 41 37 22
Neil Gorsuch 45 32 23
Merrick Garland 52 29 19
Elena Kagan 46 32 22
Sonia Sotomayor 54 28 19
Samuel Alito 50 25 25
Harriet Miers 44 36 20
John Roberts 59 22 19
Ruth Bader Ginsburg 53 14 33
Clarence Thomas 52 17 31
Robert Bork 31 25 44
Average for previous nominees 48 27 25

Data was not available for Justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter, Anthony Kennedy and Douglas Ginsburg.

Source: Gallup

To be sure, this isn’t universal support for Barrett’s confirmation. Partisan opinion on her confirmation is really divided — according to Gallup, only 15 percent of Democrats wanted the Senate to vote to confirm her, for instance. A deep partisan divide in support isn’t a good sign for the court in general either, as it can reinforce perceptions that the court is itself a partisan institution. But Barrett could have emerged a lot less popular from her hearing — which is why the level of support she does enjoy is pretty notable, especially when you consider most Americans agreed that she’d push the court to the right (54 percent in that Morning Consult poll).

Barrett will be faced with highly controversial cases immediately

Barrett could be immediately faced with tough decisions, too, including voting on the fate of ballot deadlines in several states. There are a number of important or even precedent-altering cases at stake, too, and considering that the Roberts court has already been overturning more precedents with slim 5-4 majorities than any other court in modern history, that trend could further accelerate with Barrett on the court.

The day after the election, for instance, the justices will hear a case in which they’re being asked to reconsider a 30-year-old religious liberty precedent. In that case, the justices will consider whether that precedent makes it too hard for religious people to sue for exemptions. The majority opinion in that precedent-setting case, Employment Division v. Smith, was actually written by the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, but four of the current conservative justices have already signaled they may be willing to strike it down. Barrett could overrule it, and make it much easier for nondiscrimination provisions to be challenged by religious litigants.

fAnd a week after the election, a case involving the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act will come before the court, in which the justices could declare the entire law invalid. Another important signal will be whether Barrett’s presence on the court gives conservatives a fourth vote to hear a case involving Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, which the state attorney general described as an “ideal vehicle” for “clarifying” how the court’s precedents on abortion should be interpreted. There are also several important Trump administration policies on the docket a little later this term — including the administration’s attempt to exclude undocumented citizens from the census count used for redistricting, and whether Trump unconstitutionally commandeered Congress’s power when he diverted Defense Department funds to expand the border wall with Mexico. Given that several recent Supreme Court decisions on Trump administration policies — including an attempt to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census — split 5-4, with Roberts casting a deciding vote with the liberals against the Trump administration, Barrett’s presence on the court could make a decision in favor of Trump more likely.1

Barrett made it through her confirmation hearings mostly without controversy, but we’ll see whether that lasts. It won’t take long to get a sense for just how far the Supreme Court’s conservatives are willing to go now that they hold a decisive majority for the first time in decades.

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Cowboys DC feels heat after hot sauce mishap

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FRISCO, Texas — When the Dallas Cowboys practice Wednesday, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan might be on the injury report. The reason? Tabasco.

Nolan had to step away from his weekly conference call with reporters on Monday because he got some hot sauce in his eye in the middle of answering a question about the effectiveness of pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence.

“He’s been active every week as far as, I think, disrupting the quarterback. He’s escaped several times to do that,” Nolan said. “Obviously, the frustration for him as well is — look, it’s when he misses them. Whoop, excuse me. I’ve got something in my eye. Just had some Tabasco on my finger, and it went in my eye. That wasn’t good. Ugh. Terrible, geez. I’m sorry.”

It has been that kind of season for Nolan.

The Cowboys are on pace to allow 555 points this season. They have given up 243 points so far, which is more than they have given up in 11 seasons in franchise history, not counting the strike season in 1982, and equal to what they allowed in 1992.

Nolan was able to clean out his eye and return to the news conference.

“My eye feels a lot better,” he said, “but it was burning.”

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Surprise! October Surprises Don’t Usually Decide Elections

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In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses the October surprises we’ve seen so far this year and the likelihood of another late development shaking up the race for president. The gang also answers more listener questions.

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