Yesterday, our own Rob Bluey wondered if a Republican Senator might oppose the Supreme Court nomination. Rob’s question – combined with the continued conservative attacks on the Miers nomination – got me thinking of the strategic political implications: What would happen if a U.S. Senator were to stand up to the White House and vocally oppose this pick?
(Please note that this is a highly unlikely scenario — but indulge me with this intellectual exercise.)
If a Republican Senator were to vocally oppose this pick, the following things might result: The bloggers, activists, and pundits might flock to his side. Right or wrong, he would be perceived as displaying that elusive quality few Senators ever get to display: "leadership." He would instantly have “conservative” credibility for the primaries. He would gain a lot of attention and earned media. And this move could allow him to raise a tremendous amount of money on the internet — and through mail — from national conservatives.
In short, vocally opposing this nomination, and going to Bush’s Right, could (and I stress the word “could”) catapult a credible Republican Senator to front-runner status in the presidential race.
Granted, this power play would be a major gamble. If Miers turns out to be a solid conservative, her opponents will end up with egg on their face. Additionally, if and when Bush rebounds, this maverick Senator would become the odd man out. If anyone goes this route, it will be someone not perceived as being a front-runner for the Presidential nomination. A front-runner wouldn’t want to take a chance this bold. There’s too much risk attached to it. But a long-shot candidate may believe this is a gamble worth taking.
Sometimes gambling pays off. Consider this: In early 2003, Howard Dean was a nobody running against Democrat heavy-weights like Gephardt, Kerry, and Lieberman. Nobody thought Dean had a chance. … Then, he saw his opening. Sure, it was a gamble — but what did the former Vermont Governor have to lose? He would take a bold stand against the War.
As you know, this bold and risky move catapulted Dean to front-runner status for much of the early campaign. Liberal activists around the country were so “hungry” for someone to actually take a stand that money and support poured in from across the nation.
… Not that I’m advocating this tack. Political considerations should not be the primary concern — especially on a vote of this long-term magnitude. But, it would be an interesting power-play for an ambitious Republican Presidential hopeful.
Of course, this is all contingent on the assumption that Miers continues to be an unpopular pick. This could change; Roberts was initially unpopular among conservatives, but that seems to have faded.
But how much do you want to bet that some ambitious politician is at least considering this maneuver?