May 1st, 2009
02:31 PM ET

Conservatives prepare for Supreme battle

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Dana Bash
CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent

There are few issues that rally conservatives as much as a Supreme Court nomination - and activists are wasting no time gearing up for a battle.

Conservative groups worked into the night Thursday after news broke of Justice David Souter’s retirement to arrange a conference call early Friday morning to talk strategy with representatives of more than 60 groups.

Leaders on the call, such as Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network, told colleagues that one of their first challenges is convincing activists there is a fight to be had.

"One thing to keep in mind is that the left and media will say this doesn't really matter - Obama will just replace a liberal with a liberal,” Long said. “It's a conservative court. We need to push back against that immediately.”

Curt Levy, also of the Judicial Confirmation Network, argued to the nearly 200 activists on the conference call that this can "be a winning issue" for conservatives if they focus on what he called the "right issues" such as same sex marriage, death penalty and the Second Amendment - issues that can split Democrats.

"If [President Obama] was to nominate somebody who was anti-death penalty, pro-gay marriage, you know – took a very extreme view on the separation of church and state, etc, or against any restriction on partial birth abortion… I think this could really be a 70-30 type issue for the Republican Party." said Levy, meaning it would have 70 percent support from Republicans.

Conservative activists also made it clear that they're concerned about whether Republican senators have the stomach for this fight, since they know going in that Democrats have a nearly filibuster proof majority.

"We've really got to make it clear that we have certain expectations for Republican senators," Levy said, "Including the fact that they study the nominee and not run to the podium to endorse the nominee whoever it is.”

Another member of the Judicial Confirmation Network, Gary Marx, said he has the same concerns.

"We need to really be focused on putting wind in the sails of these Republican senators at this stage of the battle," said Marx.

The conservative coalition, which formed to support President Bush's Supreme Court nominees, is already targeting three potential Obama picks: Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Wood.

An email with talking points for conservatives describes Kagan, who now serves as the solicitor general, as someone lacking judicial experience who is "disturbingly out of the mainstream.”

The conservatives argue Sotomayor, now an appellate judge, has a "hard-left record" who believes that judges should consider experiences of women and people of color in their decision making. They also described her as a "bully" who "abuses lawyers."

And conservatives are arguing that Wood, a circuit court judge, incorporates her personal views into her decisions.

"Judge Wood's judicial views have on occasion been far outside mainstream legal thought and appear driven by her personal policy views. In NOW v. Scheidler, she wrote an opinion applying RICO – a statute designed for mob prosecutions – to prevent pro-life activists from engaging in protests. The Supreme Court reversed with Justices Ginsburg's and Breyer's concurrence," reads the conservative talking points.

Filed under: Republicans • Supreme Court
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Lampe

    And when the Dems are in control of all branches of Government, it will then be their time to be in the HOT SEAT. Because if and when something goes wrong, and believe me something will go wrong,they are not perfect, they will no longer have The Republicnas to blame. All the blame will fall squarely on their shoulders.

    May 1, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  2. Jim M

    Is it time for Marjorie Rendell?
    cum laude
    Phi Beta Kappa
    JD Villanova 1973
    Judge: US Court of Appeals, Third Circuit
    Expertise: Bankruptcy Law

    May 1, 2009 at 3:46 pm |
  3. Lisa in CA

    Gotta love the comment about Justice Wood incorporating her personal views into her decisions. While I understand that decisions are to be decided on the merits and existing case law, seriously, don't all justices incorporate their personal views? If they didn't, would the discussion of "liberal v. conservative" even be had?

    Soutar may well be waiting for the seating of the senator from Minnesota (sorry, can't remember the leftie's name) as well as getting Specter re-seated and comfortable. At that point, it really won't matter what the conservatives do; the Dems will have a filibuster proof majority and the decision will be theirs regardless. I wouldn't hold my breath on a conservative justice replacing a liberal one with the Dems in control of all branches of government.

    May 1, 2009 at 3:44 pm |
  4. Janie from Louisiana

    So very pleased to hear the President's view on what he is looking for in choosing a nominee for Justice Souter's position. Am very concerned on the erosion of basic laws in our constitution as evidenced in the past 8 years. It is good that conservatives will rally in order to oppose whoever the president nominates. This is a safeguard built into our great constitution. It helps to ensure that the country will be served by the right person. Am sure that President Obama and whomever he selects will be up for the challenge!

    May 1, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  5. Linda Sante'

    I guess now it's simply about the competion of the three potential woman Obama may pick: Elena Kagan, sonia Sotomayer and Diane Wood? A rare event to be placed before the president at this time, a surpreme court nomination. I just want to give him support in whomever he choses. The in-depth analysis should be kept where it belongs: in the decision of the president. I just hope he doesn't elect first then ask questions later. YIKES! This looks like a difficult decision. Hey, isn't that the American way, to elect someone first then ask questions?

    May 1, 2009 at 3:10 pm |