WASHINGTON – The so-called Gang of 14 centrist senators said Thursday that President Bush's Supreme Court nominee likely will not face a Democratic filibuster.
While the group of seven Democratic and seven Republican senators said they were reserving official judgment until after John G. Roberts Jr.'s (search) confirmation hearings, Sen. Mike DeWine said the group agreed that Roberts' resume doesn't show the "extraordinary circumstances" that would meet the group's threshold for a Democratic filibuster.
"There's no indication so far that there will be a filibuster, and I think that was the consensus in the meeting," said DeWine, R-Ohio. "But I think people are reserving the right to see what comes out of the hearings."
"I only speak for myself, but having been in on those negotiations about extraordinary circumstances for hundreds of hours, I think that Judge Roberts deserves an up-or-down vote, and I hope that the other members of that group agree with me," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., added: "This is a confirmation process, not a coronation."
Some Democrats indicated that they don't see Roberts, a 50-year-old Republican lawyer-turned-judge, as the kind of right-wing candidate they feared Bush would select.
"This is a credible nominee, and not one that — as far as we know now — has a record that in any sense could be described as extremist," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said Bush had "made a wise choice." Asked whether a filibuster was likely, Nelson said: "I think it's fair to say I don't see anything coming out right now."
"My sense is so far, so good," summed up Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.
But other Democrats said that some members' favorability toward Roberts mean Roberts will necessarily have a smooth ride to the bench.
"No one is entitled to a free pass to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court," Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday. It's that committee which will decide whether to send Roberts' nomination to the full Senate for approval.
Fifty-two percent of Americans think Roberts should state his position on abortion before he is confirmed, according to an AP-Ipsos poll released Thursday. Women were more likely than men to want to know his stance. While 59 percent of those surveyed said they weren't familiar enough with Roberts to have an opinion about him, of those who had, 25 percent viewed him favorably, compared to 14 percent who viewed him unfavorably.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (search) told FOX News that Roberts would come to the bench with respect for Supreme Court precedent.
"We're very confident in his judicial philosophy. This is a person who ... will not come to the bench with a personal agenda," Gonzales said.
The attorney general, who was one of the potential nominees, added that no one had the right to demand Roberts reveal which way he would go on particular issues.
"I think it's inappropriate to ask questions regarding how someone is going to decide a particular issue, because that quite frankly disqualifies that person from deciding the case if it comes before the court," Gonzales added.
Meanwhile, the nominee continued to turn on the charm Thursday as he works to convince reluctant senators that he is the right person to fill the shoes of Sandra Day O'Connor (search). Roberts, who was unanimously approved by the Senate for an appeals court position in 2003, had scheduled conversations with Senate Judiciary Committee members.
Committee member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, had high praise for the nominee.
"He's the type of guy you'd want to live next door to," Hatch said.
Roberts also was meeting Thursday with two of his biggest Senate critics, Democrats Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Charles Schumer of New York. Roberts will meet with Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's no. 2 Democrat, on Friday. The three represent the opposing votes in the Judiciary Committee when Roberts was nominated for the federal appeals court.
The Senate could feasibly schedule a confirmation vote before the court reconvenes on Oct. 3. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., pledged to meet that goal. His hearings could be in late August or early September.
Roberts, a former clerk to Justice William H. Rehnquist (search), also met with Senate leaders Wednesday and made courtesy calls on Capitol Hill.
Roberts, who didn't say much publicly during his five-hour visit to the Capitol Wednesday, made sure to praise the politicians who will decide the first Supreme Court nomination in 11 years.
"I appreciate and respect the constitutional role of the Senate in the confirmation process," Roberts said after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
Roberts also met with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
"Senators must be convinced that the nominee will respect constitutional principles and protect the constitutional rights of all Americans ... Justice O'Connor should only be replaced by someone who, like her, is firmly in the constitutional mainstream," the Nevada senator said on the Senate floor. "I have called on the president to choose a nominee who can unite the country, not divide it. It remains to be seen whether John Roberts fits that description."
Several Democratic senators said they intended to question Roberts closely about whether he would separate his personal views from his judicial rulings.
Reid hinted at a potential area of conflict when he publicly prodded Roberts to provide written materials requested by senators.
Democrats have blocked confirmation votes on two of Bush's high-profile nominees in recent years in disputes over access to documents. In one case, federal appeals court nominee Miguel Estrada (search) withdrew his nomination in 2003. The other nomination, involving John Bolton (search), nominated to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is unresolved.
FOXNews.com's Liza Porteus and The Associated Press contributed to this report.