Control of the Senate and Judges

It is, oh, just about now that Republicans should say to themselves: Wish we had done more on judges this year. That would have reinforced a message they now need to construct: If the GOP loses the Senate, precedent shows that more than 60 Bush judicial nominees will never get even a Judiciary Committee hearing under the chairmanship of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Republicans will be unable to stop a filibuster of a next Supreme Court nominee and countless circuit court picks. This will dwarf Democrats’ past six years of obstruction.

Is it too late to tell the voters? By failing to invest Senate time on judges this past year, Republicans ignored the political lesson of the Harriet Miers debacle: Supporters are forgiving on every issue so long as Republicans are solid on judges. That’s the kind of love GOP candidates need come Election Day. The Miers lesson corresponds to getting out the vote; supporters may be upset on other issues, or be otherwise unmoved, but they will come out and vote over the judges’ issue.

No, it doesn’t traduce into large numbers, though it could with effort. Prior to the 2004 election, polling showed that efforts to spotlight Democrat obstruction on judges, culminating in a 40-hour Senate debate in November 2003, had significantly grown public support for Republicans, 2-to-1. One study concluded that “a determined effort on the part of congressional leadership can shape public opinion” and that it was “possible for Republicans to use the permanently stalled, half-dozen judicial nominations to impress voters that Democrats are, at best, interested mostly in obstructing.” . . . .


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