WASHINGTON -- Just hours after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death was announced Friday, the leaders of three of the left's most potent advocacy groups, Demand Justice, Naral Pro-Choice America and Indivisible, were on a call with 1,000 progressive activists and strategists to begin unfurling a plan they hoped they would not have to use.
Demand Justice, a relatively new group led by longtime Democratic aide Brian Fallon, quickly pledged to spend $10 million "to fight to ensure no justice is confirmed before the January inauguration."
At the same time, a coalition of conservatives said Saturday that it was preparing for an intense confrontation over Ginsburg's seat and was gearing up for a lobbying and public relations blitz.
"Tensions are very high politically," said Carrie Severino, president of Judicial Crisis Network, a group that has long pressed for conservative jurists for the court. "We expect this will be a major, major battle."
Asked about the pledge by Democratic groups to spend at least $10 million to prevent a confirmation, Severino said, "We will match their $10 million and whatever it takes."
On Saturday, President Donald Trump said he would move "without delay" to fill the seat and urged Senate Republicans to follow suit. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said late Friday he would hold a vote on a nominee but did not indicate when, constrained by a narrow majority.
Both sides have been bracing for this moment for years. But few expected the fight over the court's direction to take place in the final weeks of a presidential election and in the middle of a pandemic.
Confirmation of a conservative jurist to succeed Ginsburg, one of the court's most liberal stalwarts, in the weeks and months ahead could cement a right-leaning ideology on the nation's highest court for decades to come, providing Trump with a lasting legacy whether he wins reelection or not.
The prospect of that outcome has galvanized Democrats, who vowed Saturday to put into motion a long-planned campaign to make the case that Ginsburg's vacancy must not be filled until after the American people have chosen the next president and decided who will control the Senate.
"Progressives will fight with everything they have to make sure that this seat does not get filled," Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice and a fixture of Washington legal fights for decades, said in an interview. "Progressives are ready for this fight."
The passion among liberals was underscored Friday night when Democratic donors shattered records on ActBlue, a donation-processing site, giving more than $6.2 million in the hour after Ginsburg died. By noon Saturday, donations had topped $45 million.
Specific spending plans for Demand Justice had not been completed Saturday, but a person familiar with them said the money would largely be spent targeting critical swing states, like Maine, North Carolina and Arizona, where Republican senators whose votes could decide the future of the seat are on the ballot this fall.
"A lot of the focus right now is on the Republican hypocrisy," said Christopher Kang, chief counsel and a co-founder of the group. "Really the stakes are so much bigger than that. The future of the Affordable Care Act is now on the line."
An umbrella of progressive groups announced a candlelight vigil for Saturday night outside the Supreme Court, and more in cities across the country, to honor Ginsburg and kick-start what they hope will be a public show of force to trip up Republicans' rush to fill the seat. Indivisible, whose national network sprang up in opposition to Trump, began rolling out scripts urging its members to flood Senate offices with phone calls.
Aron's group, which scrubs possible conservative nominees and works closely with Senate Democrats to build coalitions of law experts and teachers, has already worked through each person on Trump's list of 20 possible nominees and concluded none would be "acceptable."
Severino said her group was preparing a "huge grassroots network" and would broadcast television ads as well as use social media to demand that the Senate quickly confirm a Trump nominee. She said the fight over Kavanaugh's nomination to the court was a "knock-down, drag-out, bloody fight, and I expect this will be a hard-fought battle."
Heritage Action, the political advocacy arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation that spent millions in 2018 pushing for Kavanaugh's confirmation, called Saturday for the "swift" confirmation of a new justice. It did not immediately detail its plans to try to make that happen.
"Conservatives will not waver in our support and resolve for a speedy and fair process," said Jessica Anderson, the group's executive director. "Republicans must exercise the power of confirmation that voters have entrusted in them and fulfill their constitutional obligations. The American people depend on this."
The Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion organization, announced Saturday that it would add $500,000 to its election-year budget of $52 million to specifically mobilize grassroots support on behalf of quickly confirming whoever Trump nominates.
The group had already hoped to contact 4 million voters through digital ads, direct mail and in-person communications aimed primarily at stressing the importance of having a conservative court to oppose abortion.
After Ginsburg's death, the organization will increase that goal to 7 million voters, said spokeswoman Mallory Quigley.
"The passing of Justice Ginsburg and the ensuing fight to nominate a replacement -- this really puts abortion front and center in voters' minds," Quigley said. "It sharpens everything we've been doing."