In what is sure to be a heated midterm election year, Republicans and Democrats alike are already seizing on President Obama's nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court as a campaign issue.
"The nomination will be used for two things: raising funds and energizing the base to vote in 2010," an unnamed Republican source told the Hill. "It's all about turnout at this point."
The general consensus is that Kagan will ultimately be confirmed to the Court. Yet before she was officially nominated, a GOP strategist recently advised the party to prolong the confirmation process as long as possible, regardless of who was the nominee, Talking Points Memo reports.
"[I]t wouldn't take much GOP resistance to push a final vote into early August," said Curt Levey, director of the conservative Committee for Justice. "And, look, the closer we could get it to the election, frankly, the better. It would be great if we could push it past the August recess because that forces the red and purple state Democrats to have to go home and face their constituents."
He added, "There's everything to be gained from making the Supreme Court vacancy a campaign issue in 2010." Levey confirmed his sentiments with the Washington Post, saying, "If I think we get political advantage from this, why wouldn't we get an advantage from a longer nomination process?"
However, the confirmation process could put a couple of Republicans in an uncomfortable position. Seven Republicans voted to confirm Kagan as solicitor general this year and may feel pressured to reverse course.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has conferred with Mr. Obama over his nomination and is largely seen as a reasonable voice on the committee. He called Kagan an "excellent lawyer" during her solicitor general confirmation hearings and was one of the GOP senators to vote in her favor.
Yet the political climate has changed for Hatch, who has voted for every Supreme Court nominee in his 33-year Senate career, except for Mr. Obama's first pick, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
His GOP colleague from Utah, three-term Sen. Bob Bennett, was recently denied re-nomination by his own local party because he has worked with Democrats on a few issues. Hatch, who is up for re-election in 2012, may try to avoid the same fate by tacking right.