Depends on who you ask.
The deal struck will be seen by both sides as a compromise, and the hard core on both sides will grumble that their side caved. Well, that’s what a compromise is all about. No one ends up perfectly happy, but at least — for now — we still have a system that protects the minority.
Frankly, I think the Republicans will have a tougher time explaining this to their constituents and their hard-core supporters than the Democrats will. Oh, sure, Sen. Frist and even Bush will say that they got what they wanted, but they will have to do some fast talking to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and the Christianists (Gary Bauer and James Dobson, for example) to placate them — they promised absolute power and they didn’t deliver. Even now, Sen. McConnell is saying that “all options are still on the table.” Nice bluff, Mitch. They read the tea leaves (see the poll below) and it was obvious to a dead man that they were on the wrong side of this issue.
This is becoming a pattern for the Republicans — fire and fall back, fire and fall back. It’s happened on Social Security, Terri Schiavo, and now on the judicial appointments. Sooner or later they’re going to have to realize that their agenda just doesn’t fit with what the country wants. You’d think that by now they’d have figured it out, but you got to admire their persistence — and be glad they didn’t succeed.
I hope the Democrats have learned a valuable lesson here: standing up to a bully works. There is no need to cower and whimper in the corner. Even when the odds (and trust me, the Republicans can be very odd) are against you, you will win more battles than you will lose, and at least when you do suffer the inevitable loss, you will have stood your ground and come out bloodied but alive.
[Updated to add links.]