There are probably enough votes to confirm Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court. But that doesn’t mean Roberts supporters should breathe easily.

Columnist Robert Novak reported yesterday on one stealth indicator that things may be just about ready to turn nasty–the return to Senator Kennedy’s side of a man named James Flug.

Wrote Novak:

“‘It is hard to fathom Mr. Flug coming back to Capitol Hill after 30 years of private practice for anything other than a bitterly tough confirmation fight,’ says [a memo by Roberts supports]. That argument is based on Flug’s 38-year intermittent history as Teddy Kennedy’s gunslinger. Not contained in the memo is Flug’s clandestine activity since his return investigating at least one Bush judicial nominee, Appellate Judge William Pryor.

“The Kennedy-Flug partnership blocking confirmation of Republican judges dates back to the defeat of President Richard Nixon’s Supreme Court nominees G. Harrold Carswell and Clement F. Haynsworth. As Kennedy’s rhetoric intensifies, the atmosphere leading up to next month’s Roberts hearings feels like the eve of battle.”

Novak recalls that in the lead-up to the Clarence Thomas hearings, Democrats publicly lamented that they would not be able to stop Thomas, while quietly preparing for battle.

It is beginning to feel as if the quiet before the storm is about to get noisy:

“Kennedy began stepping up his assault on Roberts in an Aug. 19 Washington Post op-ed, questioning whether Roberts ‘will adopt a cramped and contorted view of our Constitution that will turn back the clock.’ That sounds like a toned down version of Kennedy’s description of ‘Robert Bork’s America’ as a country of ‘back-alley abortions’ and ‘segregated lunch counters.’ Based on the past, has Jim Flug returned to provide ammunition for the senator’s attack machine?”