2008 and The Political Calculus on Miers:

Right now things are obviously frothy on the political front--both of the Washington papers (the Times and the Post) report on the heated meetings that took place yesterday between conservative activists and the White House on the Miers nomination. Democrats seem to be standing back and enjoying the show for now.

Here's what I will be interested to watch for politically--will one of the likely 2008 Republican Presidential candidates decide that he or she can break from the pack and score points with conservatives by opposing this nomination? Brownback and Santorum have been noticeably evasive so far. I've heard nothing from George Allen, McCain, or Frist--perhaps I've just missed reports on them though. Could any of them score points with conservative activists by moving first?

If one or more of the conservatives peels away from the President on this nomination, then the feeding frenzy could be on. At that point it seems difficult for Democrats, notwithstanding Harry Reid's enthusiasm for her, to toe the party line and support a stealth nominee that even many Republicans think unqualified. If, however, he keeps all of the Republicans on the reservation, then I think she will probably barely survive. Of course, then there is the question of what kind of deals the President might have to cut to keep them on board.

If the Times and Post reports are accurate, then surely some prospective 2008 Republican Presidential candidates must be asking themselves the same question.


I've been tied up with the ACTA Conference, so haven't been posting. If you happen to stumble across this post, however, the Comments have several updates about the positions of the various Senators discussed here.

unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
I'm not sure McCain is all that interested in being appealing to conservatives. It goes against his whole "maverick independent" schtick.
10.6.2005 2:42pm
Isaac (www):
However, it could be consistent with McCain's "schtick" to oppose confirmation because she's underqualified, and if it's spun just right, favor the conservative base and appear independent all at once.
10.6.2005 2:53pm
no hyphen: I think McCain has the "whole 'maverick independent' schtick" down cold. Might this be a time for him to repair relations with the conservative base, perhaps get back at GWB a little, and yet not make a big dent in his support among moderates?
10.6.2005 2:55pm
Ken B:
I see very little downside for a conservative R to oppose Miers. My guess today is that she will be narrowly confirmed on the basis of a lot of dem votes -- maybe more dem votes than rep ones.

10.6.2005 2:55pm
What Isaac said.
10.6.2005 2:55pm
According to many Republicans, Bush is an uncurious lightweight with no tolerance for thoughtful people. They say he puts personal loyalty above principle, looking out for his cronies instead of the greater good. They also say he can't be trusted to do the right thing.

It often seems like much of the right-wing publicity machine has been taken over by former "Kerry 2004" staffers.
10.6.2005 3:00pm
Serenity Now (mail) (www):
Is "uncurious" a Bushism?
10.6.2005 3:09pm
Henry Woodbury (mail):
I wonder if Santorum was the Senator that Rove hoped to protect with the Miers nomination. Unlike Chafee, for example, Santorum is a guy that would go to the mat for an anti-Roe candidate and he is in a state whose voters might take that badly.
10.6.2005 3:10pm
Santorum is in no position to take up this mantle, because he needs to run to the center for 2006 before he can worry about being the social conservatives' candidate for 2008. Brownback seems to be the most likely candidate - particularly in light of his emotional speech at Roberts' confirmation hearing.
10.6.2005 3:11pm
SimonD (www):
I actually think the calculus for 2006 is more interesting than for 2008. They say a week is a long time in poltics, and by that mark, 2008 is an eternity away yet. While unlikely, it is possible that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens, Tony Kenedy and Steven Breyer could all retire next year, and Bush replace them with Alito, McConnell, Garza and Brown. Iraq could blossom into a functional democracy or descend into a quagmire. Gas prices could go even higher, or a revolutionary new breakthrough could moot the issue. Who knows, three years is a long time.

But a year is actually a very short period of time, and so I think the impact on the 2006 elections is far more interesting. Karl Rove apparently had a lot to do with this nomination; I find that unlikely, as it requires one to believe that Karl has decided that the best way to win the 2006 election is to anger and disappoint the very people who won the elections for the GOP in 2002 and 2004. David Frum - who has eloquently said a lot I agree with for the last week - warned on Washingotn Journal this morning that he really thinks that this could cost the GOP the Senate, and that the damage is already done, that it's too late to fix, even if the nomination is pulled. I don't entirely agree; I think that pulling the nomination now and nominating someone who is everything Miers is not will save the situation. I'm already resigned to losing the House next year, but I think the Senate is salvagable.
10.6.2005 3:17pm
I disagree w/ the post. Miers is going to be the darling of the social conservatives. She's anti-intellectual, thinks Bush is the smartest man she's ever met (probably because he believes in intelligent design as scientific fact), attended private evangelical school for college and law and goes to the same evangelical church as James Dobson. They may not yet realize that this is a token pick for them that can get confirmed without a fight.

The non-evangelical GOP are the ones who are going to switch parties in the long run, IMO. I would think that the socialists have a lot in common w/ evangelicals, economically, and the parties are getting close to being ripe for realignment. Politically, this is just another choice by the GOP that is going to force the issue. The current coalition cannot hold.
10.6.2005 3:22pm
Is "uncurious" a Bushism?
I'll go nukular if you continue to misunderestimate my prose.
10.6.2005 3:27pm
SimonD (www):
Politically, this is just another choice by the GOP that is going to force the issue. The current coalition cannot hold.
It must hold. If it doesn't, we're all screwed, because the Democrats will get in. It has to hold, and this argument going on right now is about different GOP factions with different views on how to keep the coalition together.
10.6.2005 3:38pm
Houston Lawyer:
At some point in time, conservatives are going to need to determine who will be their leader or leaders post-Bush. This may prove an excellent time for a Senator or two to attack Bush from the Right to establish his credentials. Many on the right still regret that Jeb Bush lost his first run for governor of Florida, noting quite some time ago that Jeb appeared to be the more consistent conservative.

This President, many times during his political career, has taken positions at odds with conservative orthodoxy. Many of those positions can only be explained as politically expedient. The war against Islamofascists has caused the president to rely much more heavily on his conservative base than he did with his initial election. Unfortunately, he has often promised his base more than he can deliver.
10.6.2005 3:54pm
Shelby (mail):
If we're going to focus on the politics of the nomination, don't forget that the "conservative base" is outnumbered by moderates. The latter may typically be less motivated than conservatives on judicial issues, but if Miers' poor credentials get much airtime that could change.

Many people see Miers' supposed conservative credentials as a negative. She offers little to offset them, unlike Roberts or McConnell. Even if Bush ultimately placates his base with this nomination, it could cost him dearly in the center. Of course, this could just be wishful thinking on my part.
10.6.2005 4:19pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
"Miers is going to be the darling of the social conservatives"

This is just silly, spoken by someone who caricatures social conservatives and Christians and holds them in low esteem. A great many Christians and social conservatives, myself among them, are disgusted with the HM nomination. Caligula's horse, if baptized, would still be a horse.
10.6.2005 4:26pm
SimonD (www):
At some point in time, conservatives are going to need to determine who will be their leader or leaders post-Bush. This may prove an excellent time for a Senator or two to attack Bush from the Right to establish his credentials.
Any Senator who votes for Miers need not apply for my vote. I realize that sounds pretty conclusory, especially since we've not had any hearings yet, but short of producing precisely the sort of paper trail she was nominated for reason of the lack of, I simply can't imagine anything that she could say in her hearings which would convince me.
10.6.2005 4:27pm
Lorenzo (mail):
The interesting thing to me is the democrats' cautious reaction. Miers is maybe a Souter to them, but the exception is how she would vote on Roe. If democrats conclude she'll vote to overturn Roe, you won't see a 22-22 tie like Roberts. That will put her fate in the hands of conservatives.
10.6.2005 4:31pm
My list of Republicans that have been openly ambivalent/have said they cannot support her until they've been assured of her stance/philosophy, includes: Allen (to answer the question in the posting - interviewed on Hardball), Brownback (yesterday), Lott (yesterday), Santorum (local NJ paper reported it today), and Thune (forgot where). In addition, Coburn insisted he's been too busy to pay attention and so refused to comment altogether. Interestingly (well, not really), three of them plan to run for president, two of them have developed grudges against the pres in recent years, and one of them is the biggest anti-abortion guy in the Senate. My prediction is that as soon as one of the above states they've decided to oppose her, the rest will follow, McCain will jump aboard, and she'll be in deep trouble.
10.6.2005 4:31pm
Craig Oren (mail):
Southern Methodist is an evangelical school????
10.6.2005 4:40pm
Southern Methodist is an evangelical school????

I don't know about that, but the law school may have a soft spot for violent felons. One of their tenured professors is still listed as a faculty member despite her aggravated assault conviction this summer.

Does this mean Justice Miers might be sympathetic to my clients? I can only hope.
10.6.2005 5:18pm
Been There, Done That:
Who here believes that Bush is SURPRISED by the negative reaction from the right?

Was he expecting this and doesn't care?

Or did he really believe the right would applaud Miers because she goes to church? Or because of his "trust me?" Does he believe his own press that much? This could be a very rude awakening for the president.

Another thought: suppose Roberts had been confirmed to the O'Connor slot, and Rehnquist had held on for another week or three. Would Miers have been nominated for Chief Justice?
10.6.2005 5:34pm
All this posturing from Senators, but who among them really thinks that they can buck the trend and jump straight from Senator to Pres? Kennedy did and that's about it. Don't they know that their lot is to lose the campaign to a governor or sitting VP? Cheney in '08?
10.6.2005 5:40pm
ThomasL (mail):
Absent damaging new information or a complete meltdown in her confirmatin hearings, no usually-reliable Republican will vote against Miers. Certainly no Republican Senator who fancies himself a future president is going to do anything that would increase the power of the Senate in the confirmation process, as a rejection of Miers could be understood to be.
10.6.2005 5:49pm
What do you think happens if conservatives like Brownback revolt and scuttle Miers, then Bush nominates Edith Jones or Janice Brown and the Democrats sustain a fillibuster, the nuclear option to revise the fillibuster fizzles, and then we conservatives end up having to settle for a real moderate rather than a conservative that lacks a sufficient paper trail?

That won't help Brownback at all. If some of the conservatives peel off and oppose Miers it won't be until there are enough Democrats on board to assure her confirmation. Right now I'm a tenative Brownback supporter, or maybe Allen, I want a true believer, not a moderate to win in 2008. So if a conservative cabal scuttles Miers and we get someone better, I'm on board, I'm also perfectly happy settling for Miers. But if we end up with someone worse, I'm going to penalize those that didn't support the President's choice.
10.6.2005 5:52pm
"There are a lot more people - men, women and minorities - that are more qualified, in my opinion, by their experience than she is,"
-George Allen, presumed 2008 frontrunner.

From this to actually voting NO is a long, long way.
10.6.2005 6:23pm
duras (mail):
No way could W put us someone moderate. He'll have to put up a supremely qualified nominees with no explicit Roe commentary. Luttig fits the bill perfectly. Warner could never allow the filibuster (via "extraordinary cirucumstance" of so qualified a nominee from his homestate) and Red State Dems won't be able to filibuster (or perhpas even oppose - look at Roberts) w.o. the cover of prominent Red State R.s like Warner (Chafee, Snowe, Collins don't count). Graham too (vulnerable to challange in S.C. R. primary) wont't let them do it if W puts up Luttig.
10.6.2005 6:30pm
" So if a conservative cabal scuttles Miers and we get someone better, I'm on board, I'm also perfectly happy settling for Miers. But if we end up with someone worse, I'm going to penalize those that didn't support the President's choice."

Isn't this kind of like saying you wouldn't support Reagan because he was a Goldwater man and Goldwater turned out to be a disaster?

Shouldn't the relevant metric be whether or not they do what was best for the party, in the long run? Republican president's should now understand what is and what is not acceptable to the base. We are not going to just "trust" presidents with blank slate candidates. They send us potential squishes when we have a strong majority, then they will get the nominee rejected. This is especially important precedent if we are looking at a Giulianni Presidency in the future--though he would be considerably less reliant on the typical Republican base than Bush has been.

How many Senators would seriously oppose a Luttig-type nominee? Spectre, Snowe, Chaffee? Count Byrd in our corner for judicial picks. The least Bush could have done is gone to the mattresses and tried. Now he looks like he's just letting his base push him around if he pulls Miers and nominates somebody else. I have long thought Rove was absolutely not the political genius he is thought to be, but this fiasco proves it.
10.6.2005 6:59pm
For Immediate Release
Monday, Oct 03, 2005

Washington, D.C. -- Senator McCain released the following statement today regarding the nomination for Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court of the United States.

I commend the President for his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court of the United States. Over the course of thirty years, Ms. Miers has accumulated vast experience as a legal practitioner, led her peers as the head of state and local bar associations, and worked tirelessly as a dedicated public servant. Her record is one of deep commitment to the law and service to our nation. If the Senate confirms Ms. Miers, she will be only the third woman to have served on the highest court of our nation. Her accomplishments demonstrate that the distinction would be well deserved. I trust that Ms. Miers will have a smooth confirmation process and receive a swift up-or-down vote in the Senate.
10.6.2005 7:06pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
Let's recall the past times Bush asked Conservatives to trust him:

1. Sending our troops into a Middle East quagmire looking for WMD that has not existed since the last Gulf War;

2. Supporting a federal prescription drug benefit program that has ballooned in costs and expenses;

3. Supporting tax cuts and increased spending that has exacerbated the national debt burden for future unborn generations;

4. Trusting Vladimir Putin who has turned out to be a throwback to the Cold War;

5. ...and now trusting him in his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court instead of a reliable conservative like Judge McConnell or Judge Luttig.

Any Republican Senator that votes to confirm Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court and later comes to Michigan stumping for votes in the 2008 Primary forfeits my vote and the votes of my constituents.
10.6.2005 7:15pm
Josh L.:
My prediction: Brownback will vote no and Miers gets confirmed. Brownback gets to signal to the base that he's a rock-ribbed conservative who hears and shares their consternation about this nomination. It shows he's not a Bush clone and willing to buck the President to support the grass roots. But, Miers gets in, and so he does no real damage to Bush politically -- doesn't alienate him from the White House -- and doesn't derail the rest of the President's agenda.

(The question then is: are there enough senators thinking along the lines I predict Brownback will, such that Miers won't get 51 votes? Then, it becomes more complicated. Because of the expectation of more Democratic support for Miers than Roberts received, a majority of the the Republican senate caucus would have to vote no for Miers to be defeated (unless there's a filibuster, which would be delicious irony). If Miers will only be confirmed with more Democratic votes than Republican ones, expect her to bow out before the vote. I don't expect this to happen, given the press reports about Senate Republican reaction thus far.)

If there are other Republican senators looking to 2008 and wanting to also be the base's preferred candidate, they may be inclined to vote no, too, lest they cede the "true believer" candidacy to Brownback. This may cause Allen, e.g., to vote no. There also may be some room for Republican moderates/mavericks to vote no, since it's a way to reestablish some modicum of support from the base -- not really for the primaries, since someone like McCain will not get the hard-core evangelical conservative vote no matter what he does, but for the general election, when these conservatives may make a point to turn out/not stay home because, for all of McCain's faults in their eyes, he'll take his Court nominations seriously. Maybe. More likely for a Brownback, Allen, etc. no vote than McCain opposition.

Bottom line: If Brownback, e.g., can vote no and Miers can still be confirmed, then it's smart politically for him to do so.
10.6.2005 7:38pm
John Herbison (mail):
When did metric become a noun?
10.6.2005 11:50pm
Cynicus Prime (mail) (www):
Can we refrain from including Santorum in a list of potential 2008 GOP candidates until we see if he can even hold onto his current position despite a double digit trail in recent polling?
10.7.2005 12:56am
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
John Herbison,

A metric is indeed a noun. In mathematics, it is a function that takes two points in a space as its arguments and assigns a non-negative real number in such a way that the triangle inequality is satisfied (i.e. d(f,g) <= d(f,h) + d(h,g) if d is the metric) and the value assigned to the same point in both arguments is 0 (i.e. d(f,f) = 0). In common parlance, a metric is a consistent standard by which to measure something.
10.7.2005 6:01am
SimonD (www):
Can we refrain from including Santorum in a list of potential 2008 GOP candidates until we see if he can even hold onto his current position despite a double digit trail in recent polling?
Even if he loses in Pennsylvania, I don't think that counts him out in '08.
10.7.2005 10:21am
Larry Faria (mail):
Call me old-fashioned, but I use metric as an adjective. I use yardstick as a noun.
10.7.2005 10:24am
Kristen Chopra (mail):
Frist's official statement on Miers
quote from Frist in this story

McCain's official statement
Discussion including McCain at the bottom of this article
Granted, when McCain is too critical of Bush, he risks being marked as vindictive.

Quotes from George Allen in this story
...and this one
Allen's official statement (called "tepid" by the National Journal)

And finally, a general rundown.

Interestingly, Google tried to correct the above queries:
Did you mean: frist on mars
10.7.2005 12:38pm