At press time GOP and Democratic aides said it was unclear how receptive Democratic lawmakers will be to an Olson nomination. The Conference appears to be split between longtime Washington insiders who view Olson as a reliable member of their ranks and relative newcomers who see him as the principal architect of Bush’s successful legal campaign in the messy aftermath of the 2000 presidential race. While those familiar with Olson likely would confirm him, the Conference’s other faction seems to be in no mood to back him.
The senior Democratic aide said that while positions will become clearer once a formal nomination has been made, at this point it is impossible to tell whether Olson could make it through the Senate. A veteran GOP aide agreed, saying, “I can’t get a good read” from Democrats.
While he’s not necessarily on the current White House list, Senators have kept an eye on the possibility that one of their own, Hatch, may win the nomination.
Cornyn said that while Hatch is not campaigning for the job, he has discussed it with him and that he would back him. According to Cornyn, while Hatch understands that the confirmation process will be difficult this year, he could end up being the choice of least resistance.
While Democrats would have no trouble blockading a nomination from outside the Senate, the familial atmosphere of the chamber and close personal relationships the veteran lawmaker has developed over the years would make opposition to “one of their own” highly unlikely. “It’s kind of a confluence of the times and the man,” Cornyn said, adding that “I told him I’d support him.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Hatch hasn’t approached him about the job, but he called his Judiciary Committee colleague “a viable candidate who is well-respected.”
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) — ranking member on the Judiciary Committee — apparently has broached the idea with the White House, according to a Republican familiar with the situation. Specter is fiercely loyal to Hatch, who was one of the Pennsylvanian’s most reliable allies during his tenure as committee chairman and helped beat back conservative opposition to Specter taking control of the committee following the 2004 elections.