From everything I've read, Judge Roberts is a highly respected lawyer, who is young, soundly conservative, and does not have any published millstones that will hang around his neck during the confirmation process. He's a practicing Catholic and his wife has served as an executive vice president of Feminists for Life.
Several things to think about:
- Having put forward a fairly conservative white male nominee to replace O'Connor, Bush retains the option of nominating an even more conservative woman or minorty judge when Renquist (or if we were incredibly lucky, Stevens) retires. It's possible (though only 'possible') that a female or minority justice might be harder for Senate Democrats to filibuster, even though they didn't want to let Bush put in two conservative nominees.
- At 50, Roberts is young enough that if elevated to Chief Justice on Renquist's retirement, he could lead the court for twenty to thirty years. From what we can tell, that would be something conservatives should be very happy about.
- Although everyone is currently talking Roe v. Wade, an issue that Roberts has very little published history on, it's far more likely that an attempt to impose same sex marriage nationwide will hit the court within the next few years. O'Connor appeared to be the swing vote on such issues, so replacing her with a textualist like Roberts rather than another 'pragmatist' significantly increases the odds against the Supreme court imposing gay marriage.
- Although only Scalia, Thomas and Renquist have been committed to overturning Roe v. Wade (Kennedy switched sides in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey and has pledged to uphold Roe) this probably would give us a 5-4 majority in cases dealing with partial birth abortion and parental consent, where Kennedy has sided with pro-lifers. It also (assuming that Roberts proves to be solidly pro-life, which those who should know insist he will) means that we are now only one vote away from being able to overturn Roe. Unfortunately, the consensus seems to be that the only way Stevens will leave the court under a Republican president is feet first.