GOP Going Soft on Kagan?

| Fri May 14, 2010 9:20 AM EDT

At this point in The Kagan Narrative, it appears the Senate Republicans aren't craving a true battle. The numbers, of course, aren't on their side. The Dems have a solid majority and only need one GOPer to join them to make it filibuster-proof. Several moderates already have signaled that Kagan is fine by them. CNN reports:

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan received critical cover from moderate Republicans on Thursday on two issues likely to dominate her upcoming confirmation hearings: gays in the military and judicial experience.

One of those mod-Repubs is Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, a kind of home state for former Harvard Law dean Elena Kagan. He said:

It was very clear to me, after we spoke about it at length, that she is supportive of the men and women who are fighting to protect us and very supportive of the military as a whole. I do not feel that her judicial philosophy will hurt the men and women who are serving.

The other is Maine-mod Sen. Susan Collins, and she said,

she doesn't have any concerns about Kagan's experience. She also said she didn't see any "extraordinary circumstances" that could lead her to join a potential filibuster against Kagan.

With no bombshell—real or contrived—yet discovered in Kagan's memos and past statements (no utterances about "wise Jewish women"), Senate Republicans don't have much in the way of ammo. But the prospect of losing has not always prevented Republicans from attacking a nominee—especially when a dust-up might excite parts of its base. There's probably another reason why they're not ginning up a real fight: the economy. With unemployment likely to stay near 10 percent from now until Election Day in November and with plenty of indicators that there's a strong anti-incumbent wave heading toward Congress, the Republicans seem content to stand back and let political nature take its course. There's no need for them to whip up what could be a distracting culture clash over Kagan—and Supreme Court nomination fights tend to involve cultural issues, not economic ones. The GOP these days is playing more to its Tea Party base than to its religious-right pals. After all, a social conservative crusade mounted by the Republicans against Kagan might remind a bunch of voters why they don't like GOPers. So why should Republicans try to start a fire, when there's one already heading toward the Democrats?