Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Despite a major coordinated campaign, liberal interest groups have failed to convince the American public that the Senate should reject Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Every major poll indicates that far more voters think Judge Alito should be confirmed than think he should be rejected. Though that support generally is lower than it was for John G. Roberts Jr. before his confirmation for chief justice in the fall, it is on par with the public support for Supreme Court nominees during the past 20 years.

“Since the nomination of Samuel Alito, left-wing groups have lashed out at him through a number of avenues in an attempt to derail his nomination,” conservative activists Sean Rushton and Joseph Cella said in a memo to supporters. “The left’s campaign has involved television, radio, print and Internet campaigns, public statements, the issuing of reports, and a van-based road tour. In all these media, the left failed to generate any substantive opposition to Judge Alito.”

A poll conducted by The Washington Post just before Christmas, for instance, found 54 percent in favor of Judge Alito’s confirmation, compared with 28 percent opposed. A CNN poll last month similarly found 49 percent favoring Judge Alito and 29 percent opposed.

Judge Alito’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee begin Monday.

Liberal interest groups started formulating opposition even before President Bush nominated Judge Alito in late October to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Before Mr. Bush finished introducing his nominee in a White House ceremony, People for the American Way issued a statement promising to “wage a massive national effort to defeat the nominee.”

Other groups quickly followed suit and urged senators to oppose the nomination. They also aired ads against Judge Alito in states such as Maine and Rhode Island, where Republican senators represent more liberal electorates.

“Rolling Justice,” a caravan of Alito opponents organized by the liberal Alliance for Justice, traveled through key states to try to raise opposition to the nomination. The effectiveness of the campaign was not clear.

At a December stop in Craig, Colo., three Rolling Justice members stopped at a Holiday Inn to meet with locals. No one showed up.

In an e-mail to journalists yesterday, People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas said the campaign against Judge Alito represented the most formidable progressive coalition since the defeat of Robert H. Bork’s nomination to the high court in 1987.

He said public opinion will turn against Judge Alito once his record receives full attention.

“While the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Alito next week will be as civil as the John Roberts hearings, there is no question that there will be much more drama and tension,” Mr. Neas said.

Today, the group plans to release a final version of its report on why Judge Alito should be blocked.

Also today, the National Italian American Foundation will kick off a nationwide campaign of supporters who, like Judge Alito, are of Italian descent.

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