John McIntyre says they almost have to:
I just don’t see how the Democrats don’t attempt a filibuster. Politically I don’t think they have another option. Their base is incensed over Iraq and the fact the President appears to have dodged a bullet in the Fitzgerald investigation. They were upset at what they perceived to be the Democrats’ weak resistance to the Roberts nomination. So the Left (like the Right) was spoiling for a fight before Bush even nominated Miers. …
There is no way the Democrats are NOT going to put up a MAJOR fight. And the reality is given their 44 seat minority status the only way they can realistically fight, is to filibuster.
Michael Barone thinks they’d better not filibuster, in part because of Judge Alito’s Italian-American ancestry:
On this appointment the Democrats are caught between two constituencies. On one side is the feminist left. *** I expect that left liberal Democrats like Schumer, Edward Kennedy, and Richard Durbin are itching to oppose this nomination and will try to filibuster. They believe there’s a chance a filibuster can work.
But if they filibuster, they risk alienating another constituency, Italian-Americans. To understand the risk, consider the number of votes cast against the confirmation of Antonin Scalia in 1986. That number was zero.
My own view is that it’s too early to tell, because with the Alito nomination, we are about to sail into uncharted waters. Far-left groups like People for the American Way, NARAL, etc. have raised tens of millions of dollars to oppose President Bush’s judicial nominations. While I don’t think it is clear that Senate Democrats have to fight Alito’s nomination to the death, there is no doubt that the left-wing pressure groups do. They decided, for the most part, to take a pass on John Roberts’ nomination, and are still sitting on the huge war chest their partisans contributed to fight Republican judges. They have to spend it now, or go out of business.
We have no experience by which to judge the impact of $20 or $30 million in television advertising on the Supreme Court confirmation process. The left-wing groups will create ads that attack various opinions written by Judge Alito, in terms that will no doubt be childishly oversimplified, if not downright false and misleading. But that doesn’t mean that such an advertising campaign can’t be effective. Maybe it will succeed in raising doubts about Alito in the minds of many Americans. If so, the Senate Democrats likely will be emboldened to try their hand at a filibuster, even if it seems doomed to failure.
On the other hand, it may be that a large majority of Americans are repelled by an unprecedented ad campaign against a judge of Alito’s stature. Perhaps the left-wing groups will themselves become the issue, and they will be condemned to an extent that frees Democratic Senators from the necessity of following them off the cliff. In other words, no filibuster.
I don’t know which way events will go, but the anti-Alito campaign is coming, and I’m sure that once it begins, the Democrats in the Senate will have an eye on tracking polls at all times as they decide whether to make a serious effort to derail Alito’s nomination.