Former Senator Fred Thompson, Who Has Signed on to Walk at Least …

Former Senator Fred Thompson, Who Has Signed on to Walk at Least One Bush
Nominee Through Confirmation Process, Will Meet With John McCain Later This

NEW YORK, July 11 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network — Confirmation battles no longer are decided in whispered chats in Senate corridors, but in campaign-style sales
efforts. Late last week, with the Senate in recess, its members scattered
across the planet, Republicans set up a globe-spanning “message management”
conference call so as to organize their Supreme Court talking points for the
weekend chat shows. The guy fielding many of the questions was a 42-year-old K
Street lobbyist and ninja of concussive conservative spin named Ed Gillespie,
report Chief Political Correspondent Howard Fineman and White House
Correspondent Holly Bailey in the July 18 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands
Monday, July 11). As Gillespie spoke, Washington was buzzing with rumors that
the chief justice was about to follow Sandra Day O’Connor out the door. There
was “no official confirmation,” Gillespie said. But Gillespie’s tone had a
message: “Get ready.”

Opinions are split on the relative difficulties of selling two — or, as
some rumors have it, even three — Supreme Court nominees at once. Some GOP
strategists see the chance to appeal simultaneously to all parts of the
coalition, while other GOP insiders say that fashioning a ticket of sorts
would backfire. “If you think the other side is hysterical now, just wait,”
said a leading Republican lawyer, who declined to be identified because he is
a member of the White House sales team. “I think it’s always better selling
each of these people as individuals.”

Leaders of the religious right remain furious at the notion that the
president might nominate his good Texas buddy Alberto Gonzales to the court.
In the view of the religious conservatives, the attorney general bears a
disturbing jurisprudential resemblance to David Souter, the “black box”
moderate from New Hampshire picked by Bush the First in 1990. One conservative
donor is privately pledging $1 million to an anti-Gonzales campaign, according
to a conservative strategist who insisted on anonymity because he didn’t want
to harm his relationship with the White House.

And one-to-one salesmanship will still be required. That’s where former
senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee, the actor-lawyer-lobbyist, who signed on
as the “sherpa” who will walk at least one Bush nominee through the
confirmation process, enters the picture. Thompson is widely liked on both
sides of the aisle. But perhaps his closest relationship is with Sen. John
McCain, a key leader of the “Gang of 14,” who forged a centrist peace treaty
this spring over Bush’s judicial nominations. If Bush picks the kind of
conservative court nominees who will have little chance of winning Democratic
support, then help from the GOP side of the “gang” will be crucial. Thompson
is scheduled to visit McCain’s vacation cabin in Arizona later this month,
Fineman and Bailey report.

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