Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn told me during one of the breaks in the hearings that Alito's opponents "just don't seem to have the fire in their belly."
The Texan sees "a growing sense of inevitability about the confirmation. You just look at the (Democrats') body language and listen to the questions… and given the judge's demeanor and his responses to the questions today I think, while there may be a desire to look for a reason to filibuster, he's not giving them a lot of cause."
Of course it's in good psychological warfare for GOP supporters of Alito to market the idea that his confirmation is a done deal, and that Democrats may as well give up.
The Democrats won't give up. For a variety of reasons – including the morale of Democratic grass-roots activists -- they can't afford to give up.
Meanwhile, some of the anti-Alito outside advocacy groups are growing very restless today and urging senators to press Alito much harder.
Specter has asked "very leading questions," complained Debra Ness, the president of a group called the National Partnership for Women and Families, which opposes Alito's nomination. "He's been very easily satisfied" with Alito's answers, Ness said.
She feared that Specter was "paving the way for support of Alito."
Kate Michelman, former head of the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America, told me, after three hours of the questioning, Alito "has certainly not satisfied any confidence that he believes the Constitution protects a woman's right to choose and that he would protect it…. I don't think this morning should give American women any confidence that Judge Alito will be a justice who will stand guard over our freedoms and our rights."
She derided Specter's questioning of Alito as "weak and without real follow-through. He allowed Judge Alito to be very cursory in his answers."
Referring to pro-abortion rights GOP senators such as Susan Collins and Lincoln Chafee, (who aren't on the Judiciary Committee so we haven't head from them yet), Michelman said, "The moderate Republicans need to demonstrate their moderate-ness. Judge Alito is not a moderate…. He is far to the right of Justice O'Connor."
The math doesn't favor Michelman, however: the GOP could lose up to five Republican senators on this vote and still have Alito win confirmation.
Fifty-five votes minus five equals 50. Add Vice President Cheney and that's 51.
Democrats "need to consider a filibuster if that's what it takes," Michelman said.
But are the Democrats considering a filibuster? "It remains an option," she said.
Michelman will appear before the committee later this week as one of the anti-Alito witnesses lined up by Democrats.