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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Public Opposes ‘In-Your-Face” Scotus Nominee

It’s hard to tell if President Bush was much impressed by the boomerang effect of his nomination of John Bolton to be our next U.N Ambassador. But in light of Bush’s tanking approval ratings, Democratic strategists should take note of the findings of a new Wall St. Journal/NBC News poll conducted 7/8-11, in defining their stance on the next Supreme Court nominee. In his WSJ wrap-up, John Harwood notes:

Mr. Bush faces a Rubik’s Cube of shifting opinion as he copes with pressure from all sides on replacing Justice Sandra Day O’Connor…Fully 63% of Americans say it would be a move in “the right direction” to pick a justice who backs displaying the Ten Commandments on government property, a popular stance with the Republican Party’s conservative base.
Yet 55% of Americans also applaud the idea of a justice who would uphold affirmative action, a key demand of liberals. More problematic for the right, which for three decades has blasted the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, a robust 65% of Americans say the court shouldn’t overturn Roe.
Perhaps most hazardous for Mr. Bush’s other priorities is the prospect of protracted partisan warfare over Senate confirmation of a high court nominee. The recent fights over judges, Social Security and John Bolton’s nomination as United Nations ambassador have taken a toll on the public mood.

The poll also found that 55% of the respondents “disapprove of how Congress is doing its job” and 45% prefer that the 2006 elections produce a Democratic-controlled Congress, compared to 38% prefering Republican control. “This is a very difficult climate to begin that conversation” over a court vacancy, concludes Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “What the public perceives might only reinforce the notions of partisan fighting and lack of action.”
If Bush nominates a moderate conservative, Democrats have some tricky decisions to make in crafting their response. But, given the enormous stakes, if the President choses another in-your-face nominee, it’s clear Dems have little to lose in declaring their all-out opposition.