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Officials: Bush set to name nominee

Miers helps finalize choice to replace her as Supreme Court pick

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush is expected Monday to name his nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court, senior administration officials told CNN Sunday.

The announcement would be Bush's third choice to replace O'Connor.

His first, Judge John Roberts, was later nominated and confirmed to replace the late William Rehnquist as chief justice of the United States. (See video on Bush effort to rebound -- 2:27)

The second nominee, Texas lawyer and White House counsel Harriet Miers, withdrew from the process Thursday after conservatives questioned her credentials.

Bush was finalizing plans with Miers over the weekend at Camp David, Maryland, the officials said. (Possible nominees)

Conservative leaders opposed Miers' nomination because they believed she would not fit in the mold of current Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Bush nominated Miers on October 3 to replace retiring O'Connor, often a moderate swing vote, on the high court.

O'Connor will stay on the court until the Senate confirms her replacement.

A Monday announcement would return focus to the Supreme Court after a week of political difficulty for the White House and Republicans, with Miers' withdrawal coming a day before a grand jury indicted Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff on charges including perjury and obstruction of justice. (Full story)

Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said Sunday "the expectation is that [an announcement] is very imminent."

"The president apparently has decided not to take my suggestion that we ought to let Justice O'Connor serve out the term," he told CNN. "She's willing to do so."

Specter said he had been consulted by the White House about Miers' replacement but had not been informed of who the president plans to nominate.

Specter said he is "very worried" that Democrats could filibuster a candidate they perceive as an extreme right-wing jurist.

The topic that "dominates the discussion," he said, is abortion.

Both sides of the debate on abortion rights want to know in advance how a nominee will vote on the issue, but that is an answer that "no one is entitled to," he said.

"There could be a real tough battle here and a real tough fight, depending on whom the president puts up," said Specter, who supports abortion rights.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid -- a Nevada Democrat who had recommended Miers -- said Sunday he feared Bush would "try to placate the right wing" with his next nominee, "and that's a mistake."

"If he wants to divert attention ... he can send us someone who's going to cause a lot of problems," Reid told CNN, saying the "radical right wing" was "pushing all his buttons, and he may just go along."

Among the names cited by observers as possible nominees are appeals court judges Samuel Alito, Michael Luttig, Priscilla Owen and Alice Batchelder.

Reid said the choice of Alito, a former U.S. attorney whose conservative views have been compared with those of Scalia, "would create a lot of problems."

"That is not one of the names that I've suggested to the president," he said. "In fact, I've done the opposite."

A senior administration official told CNN last week that the next choice will be based at least in part on the "lessons learned" from Miers' nomination.

In addition to Miers' perceived lack of conservative credentials, the White House also could consider two other points of criticism on her nomination: her lack of experience as a judge or with constitutional law; and her close ties to the president, which prompted Democratic concerns about her judicial independence.

Conservatives also expressed concern that Miers' lack of a paper trail left few clues on how she might rule on issues important to them.

"She was the epitome of the stealth strategy, the idea of nominating somebody that doesn't have a record," said Gary Bauer, president of the conservative American Values organization.

"All these stealth candidates to the court end up getting on and being closet liberals."

Bauer said it wasn't important to him whether Bush nominates a woman -- an option supported by O'Connor and first lady Laura Bush.

"The criteria has to be to find that individual that has the right philosophy and the right experience to get through a confirmation process," he said. "There are women that fit those characterizations, there are Hispanics, African Americans -- only the White House can answer the question."

Pressed for names, Bauer offered support for Alito and two other appellate judges -- Janice Rogers Brown and Emilio Garza.

A poll released Sunday suggests Americans consider experience as a judge as more important than choosing a woman or a conservative.

The CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll of 800 adult Americans, conducted by telephone Friday through Sunday, found that only about one in seven said it is essential that Bush nominate a woman, and one in five said it is essential he nominate a conservative.

But half believe it is essential Bush nominate someone with experience as a judge.

Sixteen percent said it is essential that the nominee would vote to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, and another 16 percent said it is a good idea.

But 42 percent said a nominee who opposes Roe v. Wade would be a bad idea.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this story.

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