NEW YORK, Oct. 16 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network — By picking…

NEW YORK, Oct. 16 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network — By picking Harriet Miers — a judicial cipher and Texas crony — for the Supreme Court, President Bush infuriated a
conservative movement that had grown estranged from him for other reasons,
particularly his big-spending approach to such matters as education, highway
pork-barreling and now Gulf Coast relief. A clumsy effort to market Miers as
an evangelical Christian backfired, striking some on the religious right as
condescending and some on the secular left as dangerous. But the White House
can’t afford to see their already beleaguered Boss, his job-approval numbers
dragging on the pavement, humiliated by his own party. So they are releasing
Harriet 2.0, focusing on an inch-by-inch ground game, write Chief Political
Correspondent Howard Fineman and Senior White House Correspondent Richard
Wolffe in the October 24 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, October 17).

The president has conservative allies of his own, chief among them a Jedi
of Beltway combat, Newt Gingrich. New talking points were issued to them late
last week, focusing on Miers’s rather thin list of qualifications-bar-
association presidencies, corporate legal work and a term as a member of the
Dallas City Council, report Fineman and Wolffe. The talking points were
notable for their absence of even a passing reference to her religion. The
switch was a rare, but necessary, admission of a strategic screw up. “We got
distracted by discussions about her faith and church attendance that really
have no bearing on her qualifications for the court,” says a Bush aide close
to the confirmation process, insisting on anonymity so he could speak freely.
“That’s what we’ve got to get back to.”

Strategists have also lined up endorsements and op-eds to be doled out day
by day, one of them an Oval Office pageant of praise featuring former members
of the Texas Supreme Court. Miers will work her way through a series of office
visits with senators, with a fairly heavy emphasis on Republicans who have
kept their distance so far.

Aides make the glass-half-full observation that no Republican senator has
committed to opposing her. But a single GOP defection on the Judiciary
Committee would probably doom the nomination. As for the Democrats, their
strategy is to sit back and watch the GOP squirm. Marshall Wittmann of the
Democratic Leadership Council says: “Get your popcorn, turn on C-Span, and
enjoy.”

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