After 110 witnesses and 12 days of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, backers and opponents of Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork agreed on one thing: no matter what their point of view, the best witness for their side was Bork.

"The most significant part to emerge from the hearings was five days of Bork testimony where he demonstrated the depth and richness of his intellect and why he is, as {former} Chief Justice {Warren E.} Burger said, the most qualified nominee in 50 years," said Assistant Attorney General John R. Bolton.

"I think we made the most progress in presenting our case through his testimony and his responses," said William B. Schultz of the Public Citizen Litigation Group, which published a highly critical study of Bork's record as a federal appeals court judge.

The hearings were remarkable for the degree to which senators asked, with Bork offering detailed responses, about his opinions on constitutional issues and the reasoning of specific cases. Bork was subjected to more intense questioning about his philosophy than any nominee in history.

In 30 hours of testimony, the 60-year-old jurist outlined, clarified and -- in some cases -- shifted his views on original intent, free speech, civil rights, privacy and the importance of adhering to precedent.

Bork, in 25 years as a law professor and judge, had blasted dozens of Supreme Court cases as wrongly decided examples of "judicial imperialism." He reassured committee members that -- while he might still think the cases were wrong -- he had no intention of undoing most of those precedents, including decisions requiring one man, one vote; giving broad free-speech protections, and invalidating poll taxes, racially restrictive housing covenants and sterilization of criminals.

In addition, Bork, who had earlier said only racial and ethnic minorities are covered by the Equal Protection Clause, said for the first time that the guarantee "applies to everybody," including women, illegitimate children, and the poor.

However, he stood by his view that the right to privacy -- the theoretical underpinning for the right to abortion and to use contraceptives -- is not in the Constitution. Although Bork derided as "nutty" a Connecticut law that prohibited married couples from using birth control, he said the high court erred in 1965 when it struck down the law as a violation of the constitutional right to privacy.

Bork opponents asserted that his testimony demonstrated that he remains outside the mainstream of judicial thought, and of what Americans want from a justice. Although polls showed large percentages of the public unaware of Bork before the start of the hearings, his testimony began to focus public attention on the nomination, and to shift polls against the nominee.

"People were exposed to Robert Bork, and they didn't like what they heard," said Ricki Seidman of People for the American Way.

"As the Senate Judiciary Committee began to explain to the public the consequences -- the result one could reach in the area of privacy, in the area of equal protection -- the result got across to the public," said Jerry Berman of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"From our point of view, the White House had a story that it needed to get out" -- portraying Bork as a moderate -- "and the hearings really showed how their strategy has begun to unravel, through Bork's own testimony," said Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice.

At the same time, Bork critics seized on his shifts as evidence that he has undergone a convenient "confirmation conversion," in the phrase coined by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), and was either not to be trusted or would not be vigilant in applying precedents with which he fundamentally disagreed.

Morton Halperin of the ACLU cited, for example, Bork's new view that the Equal Protection Clause covers women. "He could not have been confirmed if he didn't change his position, but he changed his position in a way that is wholly inconsistent with his judicial philosophy," Halperin said. "People don't get all the subtle details, but they get that his change of heart is not credible."

Bork backers said they thought his testimony amply demonstrated his intellect, integrity and philosophical acceptability, but that it was obscured to some extent by demagoguery from liberal senators.

"I think Judge Bork performed magnificently, and any reasonable observer would have concluded that he has basically laid to rest all the outrageous charges against him," said Daniel Casey of the American Conservative Union.

However, he said, "the evening news clips gave a completely different picture. The picture was Judge Bork being accused over and over of being insensitive to minorities and women and not understanding why he wanted to go back to one man, one vote."

"Somebody needs to ask, 'Where is that wild-eyed radical the left said we were going to see?' " said Daniel Popeo of the Washington Legal Foundation.

But other conservatives expressed dismay with Bork's moderation of previous positions, and contended that he would have done better with a hard-hitting strategy emphasizing criminal law questions.

"The whole debate has been framed in a defensive sense, not in an affirmative sense, defending Judge Bork against claims that he would radically transform the landscape of constitutional jurisprudence and saying that isn't so," said Bruce Fein of the Heritage Foundation.

Instead, Fein said, supporters should have tried to "convince {the public} that something is amiss here in the way the courts are doing their business, and we need change. That's why Judge Bork is the right choice."

Administration strategists said, however, that polls indicated that Bork cannot win if he is viewed as an extremist. "I'd rather argue that argument {confirmation conversion} than right-wing zealotry and ideology," said White House lobbyist Tom Korologos.

The seven days of hearings following Bork's testimony were aimed at reinforcing the argument that Bork was either a mainstream jurist or a dangerous ideologue. Much of the testimony seemed to cancel itself out, both sides acknowledged.