Back when he was running for president, Rudy Giuliani was not particularly popular with the Religious Right, so he went out of his way to promise to deliver on their most pressing issue: the future of the Supreme Court.
For its part, the Right was torn between the idea of standing firm in its refusal to support Giuliani and swallowing its principles for the sake of the next Justice, with some claiming all that mattered was getting control of the Supreme Court while others insisted that they would not be bought off with such promises.
As it turned out, Giuliani’s campaign quickly collapsed and the Right was spared the dilemma of having to choose … at least when it came to Giuliani; they are now facing a similar dilemma with John McCain.
As with Giuliani, some right-wing leaders like James Dobson have already declared that they will not, under any circumstances, vote for McCain even though the McCain campaign has been busy working hard to woo them by guaranteeing more nominees like John Roberts and Samuel Alito … and maybe even a Robert Bork thrown in for good measure.
And it looks like those efforts are starting to pay off:
Prominent conservatives and activists are indicating they will put aside their differences with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and rally their supporters to his side because of one issue: federal judgeships.
In big gatherings and small, in e-mails and one-on-one conversations, conservative opinion leaders fear a Democratic president, especially Sen. Barack Obama, will use the presidential power to appoint federal judges who will remove references to God and religious symbols from public places.
They predict the incoming president likely will fill more vacancies on the federal bench over the next four years than at any time in recent memory, giving a Democratic administration the power to shape the courts to reflect a liberal worldview.
Federal judgeships have become the ultimate recurring political battle. The Senate yesterday confirmed the second appeals court nominee of the year, a far lower rate than Republicans had anticipated and underscoring the political stakes involved. Even with Republicans in control from 2003 through 2006 they had a difficult time getting appeals court nominees passed in the face of Democratic filibusters.
Conservatives said the issue is so powerful that it could be worth looking past what they see as Mr. McCain’s other flaws. They have clashed with the senator on issues such as his support for strict limits on campaign finance, his teaming with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, on immigration and his votes against President Bush’s two major tax-cut packages.