On Sunday in Iowa, outside courthouses in Waterloo and Des Moines, activists from the progressive organization Why Courts Matter Iowa hammered Senator Charles E. Grassley with made-for-media protests in which participants shouted, “Hey, Chuck, do your job.”
Those protests aimed at the two most senior Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with more than 40 similar events around the country in the last week, provide clear evidence of the emerging Democratic strategy to break the Senate Republican blockade against President Obama’s forthcoming nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Democrats intend to try to make life as miserable as possible for Senate Republicans -- particularly those on the Judiciary Committee or up for re-election in November -- both back home and in Washington until they relent and agree to take up the nomination.
Democratic strategists believe that if they can make Senate Republicans squirm as they are forced to constantly defend the party’s stance, those Republicans will in turn lean on the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to back off his blanket refusal to allow a confirmation hearing.
The way Democrats believe they can best make their point is to have activists do whatever they can to get under the skin of senators like Mr. Grassley, the Judiciary Committee chairman, who is getting some of the worst Iowa press coverage of his long career because of his now almost daily declaration that he has no intention of considering Mr. Obama’s choice for the court.
Hulse briefly considered the Republican view before concluding that Democrats had the upper hand.
Democrats aren’t worried about the pushback. They note that national surveys show that the American public is already on their side and say their task now is to make Republican realize their resistance is politically untenable.
The same page featured a related story cowritten by reporters
Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael Shear (neither one known for challenging the president): “ Allies Say Obama’s Court Pick Is Near, and Will Be Hard for Republicans to Ignore.”
President Obama is close to a decision on a Supreme Court nominee based purely on qualifications and experience, White House officials insisted on Monday, but the president’s allies said that political considerations -- including whether a nominee had an easily defensible record or appeal to Republicans -- were clearly part of Mr. Obama’s calculus.
Speculation now centers on three potential nominees, all federal circuit court judges: Sri Srinivasan, 49, who was confirmed in 2013 with a 97-to-0 vote; Merrick B. Garland, 63, a moderate who has been a finalist in Mr. Obama’s previous Supreme Court searches; and Paul J. Watford, 48, a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California.
Armed with public polling data, Mr. Simas said on the call that the Republicans’ refusal to consider the president’s nominee was “untenable” and was opposed by two-thirds of the public. He said the White House message would be far more effective once Mr. Obama had chosen a nominee with “impeccable credentials,” according to people who dialed in, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the details of a confidential call.
Times, as usual, tilted its ideological labeling leftward, declaring Srinivasan a moderate and Watford being perhaps “the most liberal of the nominees” but still “an impressive judge.” But National Review found Srinivasan’s “moderation” to be greatly exaggerated.
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said Mr. Obama must decide whether to pick a “grand-slam” candidate -- one like Judge Srinivasan, who is young, moderate and could have a profound effect on the court -- or a “sacrifice fly,” like Judge Watford, an impressive judge whose positions on the death penalty and immigration would draw criticism from conservatives but whose nomination could exact a political price from Republicans who oppose him.
Judge Srinivasan, who would be the court’s first Indian-American, has the shortest judicial record of the three, which could limit the potential for conservative attacks, but also makes him a bit of an ideological cipher. Judge Watford, an African-American, could be the most liberal of the nominees, and did not get the kind of universal support that Judge Srinivasan did during his previous confirmation battle.
Judge Garland is moderate enough that Republicans would find it difficult to reject him, many Democrats believe, particularly if a Democrat wins the presidency in November.