10/07/2005

White House working to shore up conservative support - Yahoo! News

In a sharp departure from what occurred during the debate over Chief Justice John Roberts' nomination, the White House and its allies will spend the next few weeks trying to build support among wary conservative interest groups for its new nominee, Harriet Miers.

During the Roberts nomination process, the administration focused on moderate senators and their constituents. But though most conservatives were convinced from the start that Roberts agreed with them ideologically, many have expressed doubts this week about Miers because she's never been a judge and they know relatively little about her. She is the White House counsel and has been a longtime legal adviser to
President Bush.

"This requires a totally different strategy than we employed in the Roberts nomination," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice and a key ally of the White House. He said most conservative groups quickly lined up in support of Roberts and could focus on pressuring the Senate.

He and other supporters of Miers are aggressively promoting her nomination. "We're working 20 hours a day," much of it on phone calls to other conservatives, he said.

The White House is also wooing doubters. Former
Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie is managing the administration's public relations effort on the nomination. He met with representatives of many groups this week and was told by several of their disappointment in the selection of Miers. The White House plans more of these outreach sessions.

"Conservatives, and all Americans, will take comfort in who Harriet Miers is as they learn more about her," a Gillespie aide, Jim Dyke, said Thursday.

Since Bush nominated Miers to the court Monday, several influential groups, such as the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America, have said they don't know enough about Miers. The council and other conservative groups have said they will wait until Miers' confirmation hearings to pass judgment on her. Those hearings could begin early next month.

Groups that have said they oppose Miers include Operation Rescue and Public Advocate. Leaders of other groups, such as Virginia Armstrong of the Eagle Forum's Court Watch Project, have said they are "disturbed" by the nomination but stopped short of opposing her.

The White House effort to soothe conservatives isn't due to concerns that Miers won't be confirmed by the Senate. Bush's fellow Republicans hold 55 of the Senate's 100 seats, and it's possible several moderate Democrats would support Miers.

"Barring some disastrous performance at her hearings, she'll get confirmed," said Trevor Parry-Giles, professor of political communication at the University of Maryland. "But there has been a lot of hoohah and bantering back and forth by these groups as they try to send a message to the president. The White House needs to show it's listening" to ensure those groups' ongoing support.

Miers' nomination is politically sensitive because she would succeed retiring Justice
Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate who often is the deciding vote on many of the court's important decisions on social issues. O'Connor is among the six justices who have supported abortion rights.

The effort to win over skeptics could involve shifting some of the approximate $20 million that conservative organizations planned to spend on advertising to pressure the Senate to confirm Bush's pick. Instead, money could be spent to target groups that are questioning whether Miers is a true conservative.

"I bet they'll be doing a lot more advertising than they'd planned to on Fox

White House working to shore up conservative support - Yahoo! News

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