WASHINGTON – With the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito less than a week away, his critics are making every effort to whip up opposition to Alito's joining the court.
But ever since the defeat of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork a little more than 18 years ago, conservative activists have vowed not to let such critics go unanswered.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin the confirmation hearing process for Alito next Monday. Ahead of that, on Wednesday, the American Bar Association gave Alito a unanimous "well-qualified" rating, furthering Alito's momentum ahead of the hearing.
The rating came after a vote of an ABA committee and will be delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is the highest rating the ABA gives out, and the same rating he received in 1990, when President Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, nominated Alito to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
But believing that most Americans are now past the diversion of the holidays, several interest groups for and against Alito are picking up the pace of their public relations campaigns, hoping to help or hurt the nominee ahead of the Senate vote.
Watch gavel-to-gavel, streaming live video of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on FOXNews.com.
Progress for America, a conservative group, is spending about $500,000 on a television ad backing Alito.
"Every day desperate liberals make up a steady drip of attacks against Judge Samuel Alito. Want the truth?" asks the ad, which also quotes the writings of legal analyst Stuart Taylor, a columnist for The National Journal.
Alito "is widely admired by liberals, moderates and conservatives who know him as fair-minded, committed to apolitical judging and wedded to no ideological agenda, other than restraint and the exercise of judicial power," says the ad, quoting Taylor before ending with the order "Confirm Judge Samuel Alito."
In Arkansas, home of two Democratic senators thought to be crucial to Alito's confirmation prospects, the Rev. Bill Owens of the Coalition of African-American Pastors is running radio ads calling Alito opponents extremists opposed to religious freedom.
"Now these extremist groups want our senators to vote against Judge Alito for the United States Supreme Court, a judge who has a strong record, over 15 years, of protecting religious liberty. Please take the time to contact both Sen. Lincoln and Sen. Pryor, and tell them to not join forces with these extremists," Owens says in the ad.
Meanwhile, a coalition of groups opposed to the nomination is preparing its campaign. Ralph Neas, head of People for the American Way, a liberal-leaning group, compares the coming battle to the 1987 fight over Judge Robert Bork.
"As you know I chaired the 'Block Bork Coalition' in 1987. In this coalition that's mobilizing is as formidable a coalition as the progressive community has had since 1987," Neas said. "Of course, this time it's an arch-conservative replacing not another arch-conservative but a mainstream conservative ... Maybe very importantly, is the extensive paper trail. This trail goes back over 20 years, in many ways it's similar to Robert Bork's paper trail in 1987."
Despite the whirlwind surrounding the nomination, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he thinks Alito can have a fair and impartial hearing.
"I think his confirmation will be decided in the hearings. I maintain an open mind, want to go right down the middle and see to it that we handle him properly," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
The crescendo of both anti- and pro-Alito campaigns is likely to peak over the weekend, just before the start of hearings. Both sides say their efforts won't end there. They have the funding, and are prepared to fight it out, until the matter is decided on the Senate floor.
Click in the video box to the right to watch a report by FOX News' Brian Wilson.