My Alito Vote Prediction

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I'm going to defy all expectations and predict that Judge Alito will be confirmed with a filibuster-proof vote of 60 senators in favor. It will most probably be between 58 and 62, and I think 60 is a good guess. So far 56 senators have indicated that they will support his nomination. Three of those are Democrats. 33 have indicated that they will not support his nomination. All of those are Democrats. That leaves 11 senators unaccounted for. Some of these are easy enough to predict. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) hasn't said what she'll do, but she almost never diverges from the other Maine senator, Susan Collins, on these matters. Both are strongly pro-choice but loyal Republicans in most ways. I suspect Snowe will join Collins in voting yes. That would make 57. This isn't guaranteed, especially given that she's up for reelection this year in a mostly blue but almost swing state, but I'd say it's more likely than not.

Several of the Democrats who have not given an indication of how they will vote are from red states and supported Roberts. I'm not assuming all of them will support Alito, but I suspect at least a few more will. Kent Conrad (D-ND) is from a very red state and is up for reelection this year. He voted for Roberts and may well side with Alito as well. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is from the same state but just won reelection in 2004 and won't have to run again until 2010. He faces much less political pressure from his constituents on the issue. He did vote for Roberts, so I'm not ruling him out, but I think Conrad is more likely. If I count Conrad but not Dorgan, we have 58. I think Mary Landrieu (D-LA) is a real possibility, but she doesn't have to face her red state voters until 2008. She tends to be a supporter of the president on many issues, and she did vote for Roberts. Mark Pryor (D-AR) is also from a red state, supported Roberts, and not up for reelection until 2008. It's hard to predict his vote too. Of Dorgan, Landrieu, and Pryor, I would predict at least one would vote for Alito (and quite possibly two, but I won't assume that). That would be 59. I think that's a safe guess, though I admit that it's possible that none of them would vote yes. On the other hand, they might all vote yes, which would bring it to 61.

Some of the Democrats are unlikely to vote yes. Evan Bayh (D-IN) is from a red state but voted no on Roberts. I'm not sure how he can consistently vote yes on Alito, unless he admits that the earlier vote was a mistake. His constituents have heavily criticized him for that vote, but I suspect he'll be a no. He's not up for reelection until 2010. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is from a swing state and is up for reelection this year, but she voted no on Roberts. I doubt she would switch on Alito. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is almost certainly a no. He voted against Roberts and is from a blue enough state not to worry about voter backlash.

I think some votes are just impossible to predict. One report a while back was that one Republican intended to vote against Alito. This report didn't specify who, but it was probably Lincoln Chafee (R-RI). Even so, it's easily possible that he may have changed his mind. He's going to face a tough primary election this year against a conservative Republican. Republicans in RI are very disappointed with Chafee's weak record from a conservative point of view. That's some pressure for him to vote yes. I'm not counting on him, though. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is brand new, having just been appointed to replace Jon Corzine, who is now governor of NJ. We now nothing of his stance on supporting presidential nominees who are eminently qualified but hold views he doesn't like, but I wouldn't count on him.

So far I've got a possible 61 but a more likely 59. So where's the 60th vote that I'm predicting going to come from? Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) wouldn't be a reliable vote for Alito, but he did vote for Roberts and is from a very red state. He's not up for reelection until 2008, but his fellow WV senator Robert Byrd is supporting Alito very strongly with some very choice words for how honorable Judge Alito is and how little he deserved the treatment he received at the hearings. I suspect Byrd brought Rockefeller along for Roberts, and I think he will do so again with Alito. If so, that's 60. That doesn't even assume that most of the Democrats who voted for Roberts from red states will vote for Alito. It could be as high as 63 if Chafee, Dorgan, Landrieu, and Pryor all vote yes (assuming my solid no predictions come out as I've guessed). That's getting much less likely, but it's not completely out of the question. The safe range, I would say, is 58-62, and I'm going to say 60.

[Update 9:33 pm EST Monday, Jan 30: Since I keep getting hits to this post, I might as well update the public statements about voting. Senators Chafee, Pryor, Lautenberg, and Menendez intend to vote no. I'm a little surprised at Pryor, not at all at Chafee, Menendez, and Lautenberg. Senator Conrad is voting yes. Senators Landrieu, Dorgan, Rockefeller, Bayh, Cantwell, and Snowe still have given no indication. They all voted not to filibuster this nomination, but so did many who intend to vote no, including Chafee and Pryor. I'd be very surprised if Bayh votes yes, given that he voted no for Roberts. Cantwell has some political pressure to vote yes, but I'm not expecting it. Dorgan and Landrieu are both genuinely possible yes votes, and I'm still predicting Snowe is a yes. The declared vote is now 57-37. It realistically could be anywhere from 57 to 63 at this point, but I'd say the safer range is 58 to 61. I'm less sure of 60, because Pryor's no vote changes my certainty that one of Dorgan, Landrieu, or Pryor would vote yes. I'd say 59 is as likely as 60. I still would say that 60 is as good a guess as any other, because the only other guess as good is 59.

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