Election 2008

McCain Expresses Support for Conservative Judges

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Presumptive GOP nominee John McCain is busy trying to shore up his support with conservatives. The Arizona senator made a significant step Tuesday in North Carolina when he talked about the kind of judges he would nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Now, there's not any doubt about who the Republican nominee will be, but there are questions about whether John McCain will carry all his party with him. McCain wants to nail down conservative support, and yesterday he addressed an issue that to many conservatives is of highest importance. He talked about the kind of judges he would appoint, including judges to the Supreme Court.

NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: John McCain says conservative Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito are models of the kind of jurists he'd appoint, judges who know their own mind, know the law, and know the difference. At Wake Forest University in North Carolina, McCain criticized what he called judicial activism, in which judges and lawyers substitute their own opinions for settled law and the democratic process.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona): They want to be spared the inconvenience of campaigns, elections, legislative votes and all of that. They don't seek to win debates on the merits of their argument, they seek to shut down debates by order of the court.

HORSLEY: McCain cited several cases where he thinks judges overstepped their authority, including a Supreme Court ruling that banned the death penalty for offenders younger than 18, and an appeals court ruling that struck the words Under God from the Pledge of Allegiance.

McCain didn't mention court cases involving abortion or gay marriage. But his call for judicial restraint is sure to resonate with social conservatives, some of whom still view the Arizona senator with suspicion. McCain has a strong voting record against abortion, but he rarely talks about that or other social issues on the campaign trail.

That's worked in his favor with more liberal voters. Many are unaware of his conservative views or choose to overlook them. Political analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia says by promising to appoint conservative judges, McCain is walking a tightrope, trying to reach out to the right but without alienating the center.

Mr. LARRY SABATO (University of Virginia): This is red meat for the base but it's red meat that doesn't necessarily offend the vegetarians among the swing independents.

HORSLEY: Sabato says that high wire act would be difficult for any politician, but it's the line McCain will be walking for the next six months.

Scott Horsley, NPR News.

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