Well, it's official. Bush is nominating Judge John Roberts of the D.C. Court of Appeals to fill the O'Connor vacancy on the Supreme Court. He's a smart choice for Bush. He's going to be conservative enough to appease the Republican base -- a former Rehnquist clerk, Reagan Justice Department official, etc. -- and yet the fact that he's only been on the Circuit Court for 20 months gives the opposition little insight into his mind.
All in all, I suspect he'll be confirmed. I really doubt we'll see a filibuster here since (a) Roberts isn't nearly as right-wing as some of the other contenders and (b) the seven moderate Democrats who brokered the last judicial compromise will have little political cover here to claim there are "extraordinary circumstances" to warrant the filibuster. The Republicans already have 55 votes in the Senate, and if they can just get five Democrats to side with them, there's absolutely nothing that can be done to prevent him from reaching the floor and getting on the bench.
If the Democrats are smart, they'll put up some tough but fair questions at the Judiciary Committee hearings, but ultimately let the nomination sail right through. The right-wing media is already making noise about the fact that Roberts was first denied a spot on the bench by the mean ol' Democrats in '92, and then had to wait two years to get onto the bench after being renominated in '01. They're clearly priming the fairness issue they so love. (Assuming it's a conservative who's been treated unfairly. Liberals can suck it -- right, Orrin?)
Anyway, given the inevitability of his nomination, it would be shrewd for the Senate Democrats just to go through the motions, asking tough questions and voting their consciences, without resorting to anything that even remotely resembles a delaying tactic. If Roberts is going to be confirmed anyway, the sight of the right's favorite punching bags -- Sens. Kennedy, Leahy, Durbin, Feinstein, and Schumer, all of whom are on the SJC -- tearing into him is only going to rally the base behind Bush. If they treat him fairly, it'll make all the right-wing predictions about "Democratic obstructionism" look overblown.
It'll also let the news cycle get right back to Rovegate.