How Senate Fracas May Shape '08 ; the Filibuster Fight May Help Cast Midterm Elections and Give McCain a Boost in the Next Presidential Race
Linda Feldmann writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
By the time the 2008 presidential elections roll around, the 2005 nuclear-tinged battle over judicial nominees may be but a distant memory. But for now, that battle - and the 11th-hour compromise that averted the ultimate showdown - holds implications for the nascent presidential race, particularly on the Republican side.
Among those who appear to be actively considering a run, Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona emerges a winner, analysts say. Senator McCain played a significant role in crafting the compromise announced Monday evening by a bipartisan group of 14 senators. And he is no stranger to the spotlight - or the public. In the 2000 presidential race, he nearly knocked off heir-apparent George W. Bush for the GOP nomination.
The agreement on judges "certainly burnished his credentials as an independent thinker and someone who's a problem-solver," says John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron.
McCain's biggest drawback is that his shoot-from-the-hip style makes him unpopular with religious conservatives. But he opposes abortion, and could become palatable to that GOP bloc if he appeared the strongest Republican to face the Democratic nominee, analysts say.
Monday's outcome appears less helpful to the political future of Bill Frist, the Republican leader in the Senate and another possible '08 hopeful. The fact that Senator Frist allowed himself to get backed into a corner, then had to cede leadership to his colleagues in the crafting of a compromise, does not speak to his skills as a leader, analysts say.
"Any outcome would have caused problems for him," says Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. If Frist had gotten what he wanted - a change in Senate rules to ban filibusters of judicial nominees - he would have received a temporary boost from the activist religious conservative wing of the Republican Party. For that constituency, placing conservative judges in the federal judiciary is a top political goal, ultimately in the name of overturning the national right to abortion, and Frist has courted that lobby heavily. …