The WSJ's Collin Levy weighs in on Senator John McCain and the issue of judicial nominations.
While Mr. McCain has listed the names of justices he admires on the trail before, he has generally steered clear of the courts as a major topic.
In states like South Carolina, he preferred to invoke his pro-life voting record -- and the tactic seems to have paid off. He won the state with around 27% support from evangelical voters, according to CNN exit polling. In Florida, he won endorsements from a coalition of pro-life and value voters, and campaigned hard in evangelical strongholds near the Georgia and Alabama borders.
The problem for Sen. McCain is that the justice train runs straight through the middle of McCain-Feingold, a sore point for many judicial conservatives. The landmark campaign finance law, officially known as Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, is one of the Arizona senator's proudest achievements, one he would presumably seek to protect if it was within his power. But the namesake law, which aimed to take the money out of politics, has created restrictions on political speech that most conservatives -- and conservative judges -- find unconstitutional. . . .
[This is] a salient question for "values" voters, not because of McCain-Feingold itself, but because of its potential role as a litmus test. Few "strict constructionist" judges would vote to uphold it, so evangelicals who may like Mr. McCain's legislative record on abortion worry nonetheless that his attachment to campaign finance regulation may get in the way of nominating properly conservative judges.
But Ms. Levy is not simply piling on Senator McCain. She notes there are questions about Governor Mitt Romney's record on judges too.
Aside from his mid-term conversion on the abortion issue, he faces his own little-explored set of obstacles stemming from his judicial record in Massachusetts. His appointments as governor, for instance, have yet to get an airing. In 2005, the Boston Globe noted that Mr. Romney had a habit of passing over conservative lawyers for his appointments of judges or clerk magistrates. Of the 36 people he elevated, more than half of them were either Democrats or independents with a habit of donating to Democratic candidates.
Asked about those numbers at the time, Mr. Romney said: "People on both sides of the aisle want to put the bad guys away." Fair enough. The criteria for lower court judges can be different than the higher courts, where Mr. Romney has said he would be committed to strict constructionists. But Mr. Romney's tendency to swap principles when politically convenient will leave some judicial conservatives unreassured.
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