Sunday, October 9, 2005

The Republican base across the country looks more favorably on President Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court than the cluster of conservative critics who are opposing her inside the Beltway, according to a Washington Times survey of state party chairmen.

Most Republican chairmen interviewed expressed confidence in Mr. Bush’s choice and said they were picking up little, if any, criticism from their rank and file, though some said they wanted to know more about Miss Miers and expected to learn more once the Senate confirmation process gets under way.

Eileen Melvin, chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, said she had just come from a meeting with state committee members in conservative Lancaster County, where she asked them what they thought of the Miers nomination. “They said we trust the president,” she said.

“The president has defined what he was looking for in a Supreme Court nominee from Day One, so the folks I’ve spoken with understand that he knows Harriet Miers and they trust that he has nominated someone who meets his standards,” Mrs. Melvin said.

In Oregon, “the rank and file of the party are generally concerned that various conservatives are beating up on the president about the Miers appointment,” party Chairman Vance Day said.

One of those critics, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, called the choice of Miss Miers “scandalous.” William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard magazine, has suggested that Mr. Bush withdraw the nomination.

In Washington state, party Chairman Chris Vance said he e-mailed information about Miss Miers, provided by the Republican National Committee, to a statewide list of 10,000 Republican officials and grass-roots activists. “The next day, I got less than 10 e-mails out of 10,000 from people who were upset with the nomination,” Mr. Vance said.

He said the critical e-mails “were basically parroting what they heard on talk radio from conservative opinion leaders. So it’s been comparatively mild. The attitude of the overwhelming majority of Republicans out here is that we trust the president and let’s see how the hearings go.”

In Alabama, a state that gave Mr. Bush 62.5 percent of its vote last year, Republican Chairman Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said, “People respect [Mr. Bushs] choice. A lot of people would like to know more about her, but the president has had the most personal contact with her, knows her thoughts, abilities and beliefs, and we trust him to make the right decision. Overwhelmingly, that’s what I hear people saying.”

In Vermont, Republican state Chairman Jim Barnett says he has “heard nothing but support” from the party’s base.

“From my perspective, the skepticism and criticism [from conservative groups] is an inside-the-Beltway phenomenon,” Mr. Barnett said.

“I don’t hear a lot of second-guessing. I have not received a single phone call on this. I think there’s an appreciation in the role she’s played in breaking the glass ceiling in her profession and the president’s personal history with Miss Miers. I think that goes a long way with our grass roots,” he said.

Although Mr. Bush’s base seems willing to trust his judgment, party chairmen said that many still wanted to hear some specifics about what Miss Miers thinks about the major social and constitutional issues facing the country.

“Mostly what I’m hearing is they want to hear more about her, and some are withholding judgment until they learn more about her,” Oklahoma Chairman Gary Jones said.

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