The ammunition that the left had been looking for against Judge Samuel Alito came from an unexpected source last week: the conservative newspaper The Washington Times. The paper cited a 1985 job application in which Alito proclaimed that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion." Until then, a coalition intent on defeating Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court had been broadening its strategy beyond abortion to issues of civil rights and job discrimination. But the day the Times story ran, the coalition began rewriting a television ad to attack Alito's view on Roe v. Wade , the 1973 case that established a woman's right to an abortion. "There is an extensive public record that allows Alito's own statements to be the best evidence against him," says Ralph Neas, head of People for the American Way, which is also developing an attack ad on the application.
Brian McCabe, president of Progress for America, says Alito's record will trump the 1985 memo. "You have 15 years of experience to look at on the federal bench, and he has shown that he supports precedent," says McCabe, whose group has spent $650,000 on ads so far--and there is still more than one month before Alito's hearings begin. (According to the latest NEWSWEEK Poll, 46 percent of the public say there is the right amount of restrictions on abortion laws in their states. Thirteen percent say there are too many and 23 percent say there aren't enough.) Another ad last week by the conservative Committee for Justice attacked Neas's group for "fighting to redefine traditional marriage" and sanctioning the "burning of the American flag." The right is also betting that Americans care about more than just abortion.