Gonzales' Departure Sets up Confirmation Battle

Similar reactions reverberated across the 2008 race. Edwards offered a terse statement: "Better late than never." Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., also welcomed the departure, saying that Gonzales "subverted justice to promote a political agenda."

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, noted that he voted against Gonzales' nomination in 2005 — and strongly hinted that his successor will have to be someone from outside the president's immediate political orbit.

"My skepticism was confirmed by his conduct and his failure to put protecting the American people over protecting the president," Biden said. "The next attorney general should not make the same mistake."

And it only took a few hours for the first Democrat to send a fundraising appeal based on Gonzales' ouster.

Edwards adviser Joe Trippi sent an e-mail message to supporters this afternoon — with the subject line, "Crony out, Crony in" — asking for donations to prevent Chertoff's nomination.

"As pleased as we are to see Gonzales go, the fight is far from over," Trippi writes. "We need your support in this fight — just like we needed your support in the fight against Gonzales."

Republicans Relieved

Even Republicans seemed relieved that Gonzales is leaving the scene.

Former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., both said they were pleased to see Gonzales go.

Former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who has generally had kind words for Gonzales, called his resignation the "right decision."

"The resignation is an opportunity for President Bush to renew the nation's commitment to the law enforcement officers and personnel who are dedicated to enforcing the rule of law and protecting the American people from the threat of terrorism around the globe," Romney said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was one of only a handful of Republicans to mark Gonzales' decision with regret.

"I hope that history will remember Attorney General Gonzales for his honorable service to his country," Hatch said in a statement delivered on paper rather than television due to pre-planned dental work, "rather than for the absurd political theater to which some critics have subjected him."

And although Hatch has long been one of Gonzales' fierce, if not lone, defenders on Capitol Hill, he's also a potential candidate for the attorney general's job.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., a longtime colleague of Hatch and critic of Gonzales, fueled the Hatch rumor further when he told reporters on a conference call that a "former senator might be just the ticket."

"A former senator or a present senator might be well known to the [Judiciary] Committee," Specter said. "You might have confidence in the person's ability."

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf asked Hatch spokeswoman Heather Barney to knock down the rumors.

"The main thing [Sen. Hatch] said to me was there are some qualified candidates he knows they will be looking at that he does support," Barney said. "He did not say who those candidates were."

"Is he one of those candidates he was talking about?" she was asked by ABC News.

"No," she replied.

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