John Hinderaker explains the challenge Bush faces in replacing Justice Rehnquist. The pressure on the Democrats from their left-wing base to fight a conservative will be enormous. Another conservative with as meager a paper trail and as easy to confirm as Judge Roberts will be hard to find. Almost anyone Bush picks, Hinderaker predicts, will launch the political equivalent of WW III.
Maybe so, but Bush may surprise the Dems with a nomination that would please the conservative rank and file while short-circuiting the Democratic attack machine. He could do this by nominating someone out of the Senate, like, say, Sam Brownback. Brownback is widely respected, unflinchingly conservative, and, being a senator, will be harder for Senate Dems to attack as savagely as they would someone from the outside.
Even so, there is so much at stake that almost any conservative is going to find him- or herself at the center of a firestorm. The left can live with Roberts as a replacement for Rehnquist, but they will not submit to a Scalia-type conservative as a replacement for O'Connor. Such an appointment could tip the court to the right for decades, undoing much of the mischief the left has accomplished since the sixties, and blocking most of what they have planned for the next twenty years. Hence, this next nomination, Hinderaker argues, will trigger an Armageddon on Capitol Hill.
We expect that Bush won't allow that to deter him from doing what he believes is right, but it may deter wobbly Republicans from supporting his nominee. It looks like it'll be gut-check time in the Senate once Roberts is confirmed.
See here for more possibilities from the Senate as well as several women and Hispanics whose nomination would delight conservatives.