The battle lines are drawn

THE BATTLE LINES ARE DRAWN…. The White House would reportedly prefer not to have a bitter culture war over the president’s Supreme Court nominee. The New York Times obtained some materials that show such a war is all but inevitable.

Charlie Savage reported today that a variety of leading conservative groups and activists are pooling their resources and created a research network — it calls itself the “Supreme Court Review Committee” — which has begun circulating attack strategies against those rumored to be on the president’s short-list.

Preparing to oppose the confirmation of Mr. Obama’s eventual choice to succeed Justice David H. Souter, who is retiring, conservative groups are working together to stockpile ammunition. Ten memorandums summarizing their research, obtained by The New York Times, provide a window onto how they hope to frame the coming debate.

The memorandums dissect possible nominees’ records, noting statements the groups find objectionable on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, the separation of church and state and the propriety of citing foreign law in interpreting the Constitution.

While conservatives say they know they have little chance of defeating Mr. Obama’s choice because Democrats control the Senate, they say they hope to mount a fight that could help refill depleted coffers and galvanize a movement demoralized by Republican electoral defeats.

“It’s an immense opportunity to build the conservative movement and identify the troops out there,” said Richard A. Viguerie, a conservative fund-raiser. “It’s a massive teaching moment for America. We’ve got the packages written. We’re waiting right now to put a name in.”

I tend to disagree with these far-right activists on practically everything, but this strategy is actually fairly sound. They’re going to lose. Obama’s nominee is almost certain to be confirmed by a comfortable margin. The only meaningful question for conservatives to consider is how they lose — which is to say, whether they can use this defeat to help advance their broader goals.

I suspect this isn’t going to go well. Their collective message is probably going to be something along the lines of, “This is what happens when you vote for Democrats: you get liberal judges.” This might help gin up some excitement from rabid anti-Obama ideologues, but they’re already pretty excited. It’s not, however, the kind of message that resonates with a broader audience. The American mainstream tends to disagree with conservative activists on civil rights and church-state separation. The outreach opportunities are minimal here.

“I think the mood and the politics of the country have passed them by,” said Nan Aron, the president of the Alliance for Justice, a liberal group. “It’s not going to work.”