A new justice has the potential to change the tenor of the Supreme Court's rulings significantly for many years to come, on issues including the scope of federal regulation, campaign finance and the federal government's powers. Scalia was a vocal political and judicial conservative, and the upcoming political fight to appoint his successor will reflect the broader conservative-progressive debate about civil liberties, the scope of the Constitution and the role of government in society.
The Obama administration is likely to see many of its administrative actions upheld, at least until his term ends next January.
An open Supreme Court seat may boost turnout by conservative Republican voters worried about a moderate or liberal appointment.
Appointment politics and numerous federal vacancies are likely to persist as a feature of divided government in the United States.