If, as smart people are saying, Roberts is a Rehnquist and not a Scalia, that puts a lot of pressure on moderate Dems who might want to pass Roberts, but who will be feeling the full weight of liberal interest groups on them. Certainly, the stance of Senators Leahy and Schumer tonight did not seem particularly warm to Roberts.
The Daily Kos, for instance, says about Roberts:
Roberts has been floated as a nominee who could win widespread support in the Senate. Not so likely. He hasn't been on the bench long enough for his judicial opinions to provide much ammunition for liberal opposition groups. But his record as a lawyer for the Reagan and first Bush administrations and in private practice is down-the-line conservative on key contested fronts, including abortion, separation of church and state, and environmental protection.
As noted on Law.com Many who know Roberts say he, unlike Souter, is a reliable conservative who can be counted on to undermine if not immediately overturn liberal landmarks like abortion rights and affirmative action. Indicators of his true stripes cited by friends include: clerking for Rehnquist, membership in the Federalist Society, laboring in the Ronald Reagan White House counsel's office and at the Justice Department into the Bush years, working with Kenneth Starr among others, and even his lunchtime conversations at Hogan & Hartson. "He is as conservative as you can get," one friend puts it. In short, Roberts may combine the stealth appeal of Souter with the unwavering ideology of Scalia and Thomas.
And then there's the bitterness that comes with misdirection. For much of today Democrats and liberals thought they were getting Edith Clement; this evening they got Roberts. I suspect that for them the feeling is slightly reminiscent of Election Day when, for several hours they thought matters were going to turn out to their liking, only to have to adapt to a new reality.
At the end of the day, I expect Roberts will be confirmed, but I'll be surprised if Democrats aren't pushed into fighting him.