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Stupak, Stevens and seesawing emotions at SRLC

NEW ORLEANS -- The morning news that Rep. Bart Stupak's (D-Mich.) would retire in November put attendees of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in a stellar mood.

The later news that John Paul Stevens would retire this summer from the Supreme Court had the opposite effect, and the people I spoke to said they felt whipsawed between excitement about a possible GOP congressional majority and worry about an uphill battle for the court.

"Another thing to deal with," sighed Jerry Osbun, a Mississippi tea party activist who was watching live news of the Stevens retirement in a waiting area. She fretted that Stevens's decision was moved forward by the likelihood of Republican gains in the Senate this year. But she was buoyed by the Stupak news. "I think he saw the handwriting on the wall."

Peter Singleton, an attorney from California, mused that the White House must have "leaned on" Stevens to encourage a convenient retirement. He'd already boned up on possible replacements.

"I imagine Obama will pick Elena Kagan," said Singleton. "As long as it's not Cass Sunstein -- he's very, very, very, very, very far to the left."

There was a mixture of relief and sadness from Marlene Vicknair and her daughter Tanya Andrepont, who came to the conference wearing homemade shirts with the face of George W. Bush and the slogan "Miss Me Yet?"

"I liked" Stupak, said Vicknair. "What he did, switching his vote -- that was such a disappointment to me. But Obama did this" -- she grabbed her daughters arm and shook it -- "to him, and he caved."

Vicknair said that she'd been disappointed by Democrats before. She liked candidate Barack Obama so much that she'd almost voted for him. "But he's broken so many promises," she said. "And I'll tell you what else. I don't think he's a citizen of this country."

By David Weigel  |  April 9, 2010; 12:55 PM ET
Categories:  SRLC , Supreme Court  
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