Harriet Miers can ill afford to lose any more support. But sources at the Capitol tell TIME that the Supreme Court nominee has aggravated Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, the Republican from Pennsylvania, who will oversee a confirmation hearing set to begin Nov. 7. With conservative calls for Miers to withdraw escalating by the day, Specter had started to feel sorry for her and was trying to help. But the Senator, says an official who has talked to him, is now "very, very, very unhappy."
Miers' troubles with Specter began with her courtesy calls on other Senators. "All Specter is hearing from colleagues on both sides is that they're getting nothing from Harriet but vague generalities and how wonderful the President is," says a friend of the Senator's. "None of these people are interested in that." Then, after a meeting last week in which Specter tried to walk Miers through traps she might encounter at her hearing, he spoke well of her to reporters. But she later phoned him and contradicted his recollection that she had expressed support for Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 case establishing the right to privacy that is considered a key underpinning of abortion rights. Strike two was Miers' response to the Judiciary Committee's questionnaire, which led to an unusual request for elaboration on eight of her 28 answers. Even Republicans griped that her responses were so elliptical as to be disrespectful. "The alienation," says Specter's friend, "is very real."
Republicans said signs for Miers were more ominous than ever. Even staunch Bush supporters suggested he might be better off starting fresh with a new pick. But James T. Dyke Jr., a White House official who is working with Miers, told TIME, "Is it easy? No. Are we making progress? Absolutely."
In a statement to TIME, Specter said he was "impressed" by the range of cases Miers had handled in civil practice. But his tone was wait and see: "I think the critical factor, as usual, will be the hearings--perhaps a little more important for Ms. Miers than others because her record is so thin."