McCain Might Choose Moderate Court Justices, Forecasts Novak

By Kevin Mooney | July 7, 2008 | 8:33pm EDT

( - If Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is elected president, he might find it difficult to move a conservative Supreme Court nominee through the U.S. Senate, according to columnist Robert Novak. Novak was speaking in response to a question from Cybercast News Service at conservative event in Trenton, N.J., last Friday.

At the "Defending the American Dream Summit" organized by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), Novak -- a long-time Washington political reporter and conservative commentator -- painted a bleak political landscape for the Republican Party and conservatives in the near term.

Novak, the featured speaker at the event, predicted that the GOP will lose four seats in the Senate. As a result, said Novak, a President McCain will be "strongly tempted" to refrain from selecting a Supreme Court nominee such as Chief Justice John Roberts or Associate Justice Samuel Alito.

Instead, McCain might settle on a nominee more like Anthony Kennedy, often the swing vote on the current court and who is viewed as more moderate than either of President Bush's nominees, said Novak.

Kennedy secured a position on the U.S. Supreme Court after the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected Robert Bork, who was President Ronald Reagan's first choice for an open seat in 1987.

Republican setbacks in the Senate could be worse than what is anticipated with some unlikely losses now a reality, Novak added, suggesting that both Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) are electorally vulnerable.

Typically, after winning two consecutive presidential elections, it is difficult to win a third, Novak said. In fact, there is only one instance in the last 50 years where a party won the presidency on the third consecutive try: in 1988, when then Vice President George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis, the Democratic governor of Massachusetts.

Other factors working against Republicans include an unpopular war in Iraq and "disillusionment" within the GOP ranks over domestic initiatives contrary to the conservative principle of limited government, said Novak.

Nevertheless, the Republicans have managed to nominate the one candidate who conceivably could win, while the Democrats appeared to have settled on the one candidate who is beatable, Novak observed.

The most recent polling figures from the "Evans and Novak Political Report," a highly respected political insider newsletter, show McCain with a narrow lead in the electoral college over Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the current frontrunner.

Although McCain has not excited the conservative base, he does have positive attributes that should be carefully weighed, Novak said.

The Arizona senator has an "excellent record" when it comes to fighting pork and wasteful spending, said Novak, adding that McCain has the toughness necessary to confront congressional opposition.

"Whatever his faults, McCain is strong, a tough man who would be willing to use his veto," Novak said. "He also has a good pro-life record."

Make media inquiries or request an interview about this article.

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

E-mail a comment or news tip to Kevin Mooney

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.

MRC Store