In fact, John Tower, former President George Bush's pick for defense secretary, was the last Cabinet nominee to be rejected by the Senate, over the most personal of personal questions alleged drinking and womanizing
But what has really changed in the confirmation process is that now the battle is essentially over ideology. Hard-core conservatives have even created a new verb, "Borked," after the rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.
CBS News Correspondent Phil Jones asked the term's namesake what it means.
"I think it means to be attacked with essentially falsehoods," Bork said.
The conservative Bork was nominated for the high court by Ronald Reagan and rejected by the Senate. He has his own view of what's happened to the process.
"I think that's because hard liberals don't really think that conservatives are legitimate and really have no right to govern and they are outraged by it," said Bork.
The daily pressure from outside groups intent on defeating Ashcroft is so intense that even one supporter of Ashcroft feels for the Democrats in the Senate.
"I can imagine, it's tough," said former senator and GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole.
"I mean, they're looking out the corner of their eye and saying, 'You know, I really want to vote for this guy, but God, I'm up next time.' Or, 'I may want to run for president in 2004; I better watch my flank.'"
Although the Senate is expected to confirm Ashcroft, there are danger signs out there. Just because only nine Cabinet nominees have been rejected in the nation's history doesn't mean he couldn't become the tenth.
(c) MMI Viacom Internet Services Inc. All Rights Reserved