October 10, 2008

"Remember Judges?"

Back in the summer of 2006, then Executive Director of the Committee for Justice, Sean Rushton, asked readers of the National Review Online, “Remember Judges?”. In the piece, Rushton issued a prescient warning that if Senate Republicans did not raise the issue of judges in the 2006 election, the results could be ugly. Of course, Republicans ultimately took a big loss in November of that year. But one has to wonder if the issue of judges was used as a campaign tactic in the current election if we would see more success among the Republican candidates.

A recent analysis of campaigns shows that Senate Republicans seeking reelection generally are not using the issue of judges in their campaigns. Yes, there are some exceptions, such as Senator Lindsey Graham, who boasts on the campaign trail of his role in ushering through President Bush’s judicial nominees. But for the most part, Republicans are silent on the issue. The political landscape has indeed changed since 2002 and 2004, when the issue of judges was used heavily and successfully by Republicans. But perhaps judges in this election should be reexamined. Consider what Rushton wrote in 2006:

“The evidence of the judicial issue's power to help Republicans is well established. In 2002, GOP contenders Wayne Allard (Col.), John Cornyn (Tex.), Jim Talent (Mo.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), and Norm Coleman (Minn.) all campaigned against Democratic blockage of nominees…Speaking of 2002, White House strategist Karl Rove said, “There's no doubt in my mind that we won races all throughout the country” on the issue. He told the Washington Times that, "We won the Senate race in South Carolina - judges; won the North Carolina race - judges; won the Georgia race - judges.””

Again, we are in different political times than those of 2002, 2004, or even 2006. Bringing judges back into the spotlight might be viewed by the public as a cheap move to try to focus less on the troubled economy. But with Senate polls looking gloomy for the Republicans, perhaps in a tight election reminding voters of Democrats’ stances on judges could make all the difference.

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