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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 October 2007, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Bush sets US Supreme Court legacy
By Claire Bolderson
BBC News, Ohio

US Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito
Samuel Alito was one of the conservatives Bush appointed
In their second term in office, the thoughts of any US president turn to their legacy.

George W Bush has some of the lowest opinion poll ratings of any modern president and his critics say his legacy will be the continuing war in Iraq and a weakening economy.

But for the people who formed the core of his support in the 2000 and 2004 elections, there is something else that is just as important and possibly even more important.

President Bush has made two appointments to the nine-member Supreme Court and voters from the Christian Conservative movement say that is his true legacy.

Conservatives strengthened

For more than a decade the court was finely balanced. On one side were conservative justices who believe in a very literal application of the Constitution.

On the other, there were the more liberal judges who see the Constitution as more of a living document open to greater interpretation.

Mr Bush's appoints of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the bench has entrenched the conservative side. And the impact has already been seen in rulings on sensitive issues like abortion rights.

The court has, for example, upheld a ban on a late-term procedure known as partial birth abortion.

US Supreme Court
The conservatives now hold the balance of power in the court
It is abortion that matters most to many of Mr Bush's supporters - people like Ray Sheridan of Harrisburg, Ohio.

That was his priority when he decided to vote for President Bush in 2004.

He says there is still some way to go. The real hope for him is that more conservative judges are appointed in coming years and the landmark Roe vs Wade ruling that legalised abortion can then be overturned.

But more than that, Ray Sheridan sees the Supreme Court as the moral guide of the nation, ruling on the legality of a range of laws from gay marriage to religion in schools.

On that score, when it comes to Mr Bush's Supreme Court appointments Mr Sheridan says: "I really can't complain."

Long-lasting influence

Members of the powerful Christian Conservative organisations across the country agree. They are already looking to the next presidential election in the knowledge that an ageing membership of the Supreme Court means more appointments are likely in the near future.

As conservative activist and film maker Deborah Flora says, a president is for a maximum of eight years while a Supreme Court judge is for decades "and they shape the entire direction of a country long after a president comes and goes".

President Bush's effect on the court will be felt long after he has gone. The impact on everything from abortion rights to positive discrimination in education, and even the death penalty, is already being felt with a shift towards decisions that are popular with the right wing.

President Bush may be criticised on a number of fronts almost daily - but when it come to what matters most to them, his socially conservative supporters are more than happy.

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