President Bush nominated U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court, rallying his estranged Republican base back to his side and triggering a torrent of liberal attacks that could foreshadow a bruising ideological showdown over the future of the judiciary.
In effect relaunching the nomination days after Harriet Miers withdrew under fire, Bush selected a long-standing New Jersey judge with an extensive record of conservative rulings on abortion, federalism, discrimination and religion in public spaces.
If confirmed to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the swing vote in recent years, Alito seems likely to shift the court to the right.
Conservative leaders who helped force Miers to pull out rejoiced at the selection, seeing in Alito the philosophical equivalent of Justice Antonin Scalia. Liberal groups moved instantly onto a war footing and accused Bush of bowing to the most extreme elements of his party. The intensity of the response instantly put Alito at the center of what seems to be the political confirmation battle that both sides have been gearing up to fight for more than a decade.
If confirmed, Alito would join a nine-member court that has one woman and one black justice. Alito would be the second Italian American, after Scalia, and its fifth Catholic, joining two Jews, a Protestant and an Episcopalian. Bush had considered appointing the first Hispanic justice but opted against the known candidates.
And despite pleas from O'Connor and Laura Bush, he decided against putting forth a second woman after Miers failed.
-- Peter Baker