Confirmation Battle: The Early Read

If one had to make an early guess about how the nomination of Judge John Roberts (search) will fare in the U.S. Senate, you'd have to say that at the moment it looks pretty good. By most accounts he is a very good lawyer and a decent, personable man.

But such predictions really aren't worth much right now. The first skirmishes in the confirmation battle have not yet been fought. There are a number of well-funded interest groups aligned against the nomination digging through everything they can find about the man. They will scrutinize every financial and real estate transaction, they will endeavor to learn if he ever had a nanny for which he did not pay the proper taxes, they will no doubt know exactly how many traffic tickets the man has received. Why? They are looking for something — anything — that adds up to extraordinary circumstances.

By now you have heard about the Gang of 14 (search). This group of mostly centrist senators banded together recent and defused talk of filibusters and the so-called "nuclear option" (search) when it came to some of the president's more controversial federal judge nominees. They decided that by and large, the president's nominees should be confirmed unless there are extraordinary circumstances.

What constitutes "extraordinary"? Members of the gang refuse to define it, but say they will know it when they see it.

So if you are among the groups who would like to see the nomination derailed, you must start building a case. You feed information to senators sympathetic to your cause (Kennedy, Durbin, Schumer come to mind, maybe Boxer and Leahy). Whatever they learn about the nominee will tumble out during the confirmation hearings, now scheduled for early September. The goal will be to splinter the gang of 14 and give Democrats (search) cover for a no vote against the Roberts nomination. If the gang's deal unravels, we could quickly be back to talk of filibusters and the nuclear option.

For groups that oppose the nomination, these are desperate times. They believe having another conservative judge sitting on the highest court in the land will be disastrous for their causes. They have money. They have resources ... and they have about a month to dig up dirt on the nominee. Republicans (search) who support the nomination of Judge Roberts believe they can repulse any attacks from the left, but quietly admit they cannot begin to predict the things that might rise to the surface in the days ahead.

In the past, Senate confirmation battles over Supreme Court (search) nominees have been brutal, bloody affairs. It's a no-holds-barred death match. This one will be no different. Get ready for what I suspect will be a very long, hot summer.

We'll talk about the coming confirmation battle this Sunday on “Weekend Live.” I hope you'll join me.


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Brian Wilson is a congressional correspondent for FOX News and anchor of the Sunday edition of "Weekend Live."