Here’s the key line in that USA Today report:
But two [Gang of 14] senators – Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio – already have said they will join with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to eliminate the filibuster for judges if Democrats launch this delaying tactic simply because of Alito’s conservative record.
That’s 50 votes for the so-called nuclear option right there. If the Democrats filibuster, not only won’t they stop Alito, they’ll make it easier for future conservative nominees, too. Maybe they’ll do it anyway, calculating that the fight will help them politically in 2006 (I can see the anti-nuclear option ads now: mushroom clouds, ominous overvoices, etc.). But DeWine, who’s facing a potentially tough ’06 re-election fight, probably has polling data that says his position is politically sound, at least in Ohio. That makes me think that the way to bet is against a filibuster.
UPDATE: Graham and DeWine made some comments today backing off their anti-filibuster talk, which obviously changes things.