According to Democratic Senate leadership staff, the party has been quietly doing polling on the Supreme Court and issues that may come before the court in the coming months and years, including abortion and other life issues, voter rights, private property issues, gun rights, and homosexual marriage. It's not like they haven't polled on this stuff before, but the timing and breadth of the polling -- at least two Democratic firms are said to have been contracted -- would indicate there is more than mere curiosity at play here.
While game-planning for a new Supreme Court nominee has been ongoing for several weeks, there is now real talk among the most senior Democratic leaders in the Senate of filibustering the next SCOTUS nominee. That possibility is apparently at the root of the new research being developed. "If we can frame the arguments with a real impact on real Americans, in language that they understand, we can win this thing," says a Democratic staffer on the Judiciary Committee, who says he is unaware of plans for a filibuster.
As they had with the previous nomination, which became Chief Justice John Roberts, Democrats in the Senate have amassed fairly detailed files on between 10 to 15 potential nominees to the Supreme Court. Research staff as late as Thursday was scrambling to begin quick ideological profiles of some of the newer names that have been popping up of late.
Further, research staff has been integrating the polling data into potential talking points for Senators for each prospective nominee. "Whoever it is, we'll be ready to start knocking them around," says a Democratic leadership aide.
Should things fall in place, the Democrats will use Senators, some of them not serving on the Judiciary Committee, media coordinated by third party groups, such as People for the American Way and MoveOn.org, to make a multi-pronged case that whoever President Bush nominates is out of the mainstream of American life. It's an argument they attempted early on in the Roberts nomination, but it fell on deaf ears once the media began replaying Roberts' story and focusing on his brilliant academic and professional career.
"There is no question that we are doing this to try to peel some of the 'Gang of 14' away for a filibuster fight. We want it, and just like Bush's base wants a conservative, our base wants us to filibuster, so let the games begin," says a Democratic National Committee staffer. "Things may change if there is a Hispanic or an African-American put up, but really, we're going to fight it no matter who it is."
"This 'fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly' philosophy hasn't worked out too well for the Democrats in the past," says a Republican Senate leadership aide. "Nor has setting policy and politics to polling, though their discussion of trying to change the vocabulary for their arguments shows a bit of evolution from the ham-fisted approach of Howard Dean.
"But you've got to wonder when they are going to learn that they can't win on this issue if our guys are on top of their game," says the aide. "Some people may not like the nominee, but I'll put our selection process and our nominee in the court of public opinion and I still think despite everything the Dems try to do, we'll win out."
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