WASHINGTON: Conservative groups have switched their communications focus from thwarting the judicial filibuster to decrying the actions of the seven Republican senators who brokered an agreement that preserved the procedure.
Fourteen senators -- seven Democrats and seven Republicans ? compromised on the use of filibusters on judicial appointees. The Republicans vowed not to push a vote on the "nuclear option," which would have banned such filibusters, while the Democrats promised only to invoke them in "extreme circumstances."
The conservative groups that spent time and money on advocating for the elimination of the judicial filibuster are now angrily engaging their constituents over the turn of events.
Focus on the Family, American Conservative Union, and Concerned Women for America were among the conservative groups that issued press releases or spoke to the media, decrying the Republican senators who brokered the deal.
Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, reiterated his statements on Fox's Hannity & Colmes, saying, "I think Senator [Lindsey] Graham (R-SC) made a big mistake.... This was a very bad political decision, and I think it will come back to haunt him."
Manuel Miranda, former aide to Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) and chair of the National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters (NCEJF), said the party faced dampened spirits over the decision.
"The White House is probably corralling people to get them to spin this the right way," Miranda said. "But I don't think people will fault Republicans, as a whole. It's the centrists who are submitting to polls or which way the wind is going."
Miranda specifically mentioned senators Mike DeWine (R-OH), John McCain (R-AZ), and Olympia Snow (R-ME) as centrists up for re-election in 2006 who will find Republican malaise ? and potential opposition ? to their campaigns. He also said that McCain's potential presidential run in 2008 was now doomed.
"If McCain expected any grassroots support in New Hampshire or Iowa, he's not getting it," Miranda said.
Kay Daly, president of Coalition for a Fair Judiciary, said that while conservative voters might be angry with those senators now, it might not be the issue that drives people to the polls in opposition in 2006.
The challenge to those groups that wish to oppose the "moderate" Senators, Daly said, is to make sure the communications regarding future filibuster developments don't get caught up in "legalese."
Conservative groups planned to continue focusing on judicial events after the filibuster decision.
"This is a multi-faceted strategy that can alter on a dime," Daly said. "It's not about refocusing messaging; it's about continually being in a crisis communications situation. We're not just going to be press release jockeys here."
The NCEJF has subsequently re-branded as the Third-Branch Conference, shifting its attention to planning grassroots initiatives for potential Supreme Court judicial nominees.