Ezra says something very similar to what I want to say:
So Trent Lott and Ben Nelson are pushing a compromise that would bring four of the blocked nominees to the floor, kill three of them, and end the Republican effort to kill the filibuster. But according to the new WaPo/ABC News poll, only 26% support "changing the Senate's rules to make it easier for Republicans to confirm Bush's nominees", while 66% oppose it. That's quite a majority firmly in opposition, and it includes almost half the Republicans surveyed. More interesting, from the perspective of who'd win a media war over the issue, is this question: "The Senate has confirmed 35 federal appeals court judges nominated by Bush, while Senate Democrats have blocked 10 others. Do you think the Senate Democrats are right or wrong to block those nominations?" 48% think the Democrats are right, 36% think them wrong. And that's a much softer numerical comparison than the one Reid uses (I think he's got a 195-10 number, or something similar).
So why compromise? Numbers like this ensure that Frist simply won't have the votes.
But I'd add a few things. The first is that the fact that anyone in the GOP, much less Trent Lott (a proponet of the "nuclear option" who apparently invented the term), is willing to compromise is a sign of their weakness.
The second is that while it's great for political use, the WaPo poll seems suspicious to me, if for no other reason than because so much in this depends on how the question is asked. Republicans, after all having been throwing around this talking point for a while now:
Eighty-two percent of voters agree that "if a nominee for any federal judgeship is well-qualified, he or she deserves an up or down vote on the floor of the Senate.
That number clearly was based on the presupposition that everyone agrees what "well-qualified" means; it might also mean that people are a little confused about what a filibuster is. But given that the question in the current poll is worded like this:
Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the [r]epublicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees?
I'm a little suspicious that people understand the question they were answering. In fact, I've suggested before emphasizing the "rule change" aspect of what republicans are trying to do.
It seems to me that a better number, actually, is this one:
Overall, do you think the federal judges in this country are (too liberal), (too conservative) or about right?
Too liberal: 26
Too Conservative: 18
About right: 52
No opinion: 4
This is excellent news. To me it indicates that, despite the GOP's intense, vitriolic, longstanding and widespread flogging of the issue, there isn't much support to radically change the federal judiary. It also shows that the Dems don't really have to do a lot of justifying themselves as long as they can show that it's the other side who have the really radical agenda in this case. Something like this: hey, it's the republicans who really want to change things; we're just trying to make sure that judges follow the law.
Finally and relatedly, I'd like to put in another plug for the way that I really think this debate should be handled: on the merits of the nominees. We should make Janice Rogers Brown a poster girl for conservative activism and Bill Pryor a nutcase who wants who doesn't care about Violence Against Women.