The White House is not expecting a retirement, but it wants to be ready if a surprise announcement occurs, sources said.So there don't seem to be retirements in the offing this year, and I hope there are none. If there are, however, it will be an exciting political spectacle that I assume will be primarily about the 2008 election. As Greenburg indicates, the obvious strategic move for Bush is to defy what will be the Democrats' demand that he pick a centrist, and the key is to do it with a nominee that will make the Democrats look terrible opposing her (or him). Of course, we've already gone through this routine with Roberts and Alito, but that was: 1. before the Democrats got the majority in the Senate, 2. when the previous election was a positive one for Bush, 3. not on the eve of an election, 4. (assuming one of the liberal justices retires) not as likely to upset the balance on the Court, 5. not after 2 consecutive conservative appointments.
It's widely considered that the most likely candidates for retirement are liberal Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, although both have said emphatically that they do not plan to step down....
[A]dvisers are focusing on possible nominees who are believed to be solid judicial conservatives and would galvanize the base at a time when Bush desperately needs its support....
Leading Senate Democrats are already warning against solidly conservative nominees, and that could make confirmation difficult in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Still, some of Bush's political advisers believe he would be better off tapping a strong conservative who would rally the base -- especially a nominee with a compelling life story who would be difficult for moderate Senate Democrats to oppose.
June 4, 2007
Writes Jan Crawford Greenburg: