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Sotomayor Is the GOP’s Latest Headache

The first Republican reactions to President Obama’s nomination of the Bronx’s own Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court have already begun trickling in, and they’re not quite as bitingly partisan as one might expect. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement saying that his party “will treat Judge Sotomayor fairly,” but will “thoroughly examine her record” and judicial philosophy. Mitt Romney calls her nomination “troubling” but looks forward to a “fair and thorough hearing,” Michael Steele says the GOP will “reserve judgment,” and Mike Huckabee is calling her Maria. Republicans throughout the Senate are holding their fire as well. So what’s with the relatively underwhelming reaction? Well, not only do Republicans have almost no chance of blocking her confirmation, but even simply giving it the old college try might be hazardous this time around because of Sotomayor’s ethnicity and gender. Well played, Obama, well played.

• Mark Halperin lays out the “mistakes mainstream Republicans can make on the Sotomayor confirmation process,” including appearing anti-woman, anti-Hispanic, or sore losers. [Page/Time]

• Tom Goldstein analyzes the likely Republican lines of attack, either publicly or in the press. They’ll say Sotomayor “is not smart enough for the job” and that she “is a liberal ideologue and ‘judicial activist.’” They’ll also say she’s “unprincipled or dismissive of positions with which she disagrees,” and finally, they’ll “characterize her as gruff and impersonable.” None of these arguments are supported by the facts, so likely won’t be effective. [New Republic]

• Nate Silver suspects that “Obama may be trying to carefully calibrate the amount of Republican resistance: enough that there’s a chance that they’ll do something that makes them look silly, but not enough for them to seriously threaten Sotomayor’s nomination with a filibuster.” [FiveThirtyEight]

• Jennifer Rubin says Sotomayor will “be acclaimed as a ‘breakthrough’ pick and will be to some degree a harder target for senators who are always looking over their shoulders for criticism of their ‘insensitivity.’” [Contentions/Commentary]

• Rod Dreher at least “takes comfort” in the fact that Sotomayor “did not choose a liberal justice who can match intellects with Roberts and Scalia.” [Crunchy Con/BeliefNet]

• Michael Tomasky thinks that the pick “tells us that the White House knows that even a much-discussed piece like [Jeffrey Rosen’s critical profile in The New Republic] is discussed only by a few hundred or at most a few thousand people, while the rest of America says, “uh, The New what?” [Guardian UK]

• Scott Lemieux calls it “a good, solid pick,” though Diane Wood, another viable candidate, might have been a more liberal choice. [Tapped/American Prospect]

• Jack Balkin thinks “the careful positioning of Sotomayor as not the most liberal candidate Obama was considering helps to make her confirmation easier and also helps establish Obama’s own image as a non-doctrinaire pragmatist.” [Balkinization]

• Glenn Greenwald notes that Obama’s pick is a commendable example of how he “ignores and is even willing to act contrary to the standard establishment Washington voices and mentality that have corrupted our political culture for so long.” There were picks that would have more easily placated the left and the right. [Salon]

• Chuck Todd and friends write that while “[s]ome Senate Democrats worry she’ll be a heavier lift than others he could have nominated (like Diane Wood or Elena Kagan),” she may “blow them away,” as she did President Obama, once they meet her. Plus, “would Republicans dare vote against the first Hispanic, especially after their rhetoric during the immigration debate of 2006–2007 clearly hurt them with this important voting bloc?” [First Read/MSNBC]

• Marc Ambinder hears that Obama was eying Sotomayor just days after his election. He and his advisers believe that her “hard-scrabble upbringing, combined with her tough-as-nails realism, combined with her respect for the rule of law, combined with her academic achievements, combined with her — yes — identity as an Hispanic female — provides a walking, talking counterpoint to the clubby formalism of the modern Supreme Court.” [Atlantic]

• Alex Koppelman says Team Obama sought “a different kind of American story: Another woman to make the Supreme Court feel less like a boys’ club, a Hispanic and, most of all, someone with an inspiring story, a rags-to-riches tale who will make the public empathize with her as much as she’ll empathize with those who come before her, a quality Obama had said he’d been seeking.” [War Room/Salon]

• Matt Yglesias thinks Sotomayor’s life story is one that “makes you feel good about America and that still resonates as quintessentially American even though social mobility in the United States isn’t quite what we like to think.” [Think Progress]

• Jonah Goldberg contends that “one advantage for Obama in picking the most left-leaning Hispanic possible/confirmable is that it actually allows the Democrats to — once again — cast Republicans as anti-Hispanic.” It probably wasn’t a “key factor in his decision, but you can be sure the White House will love casting conservative opposition in those terms.” [Corner/National Review]

• Ed Whelan claims that “Obama abided by his dismal and lawless ‘empathy’ standard and, in his selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, picked a nominee whom he can count on to indulge her own liberal biases.” [Bench Memos/National Review]

• Chris Cillizza writes that “[b]ridging the gap between the GOP and the Hispanic community just got a lot more difficult” with the Sotomayor pick, which Republicans “have fretted openly” could make them a “permanent minority.” [Fix/WP]

• Michael Scherer expects conservatives to attack Sotomayor on “policy making from the bench, affirmative action, and second amendment rights.” [Swampland/Time]

• Andrew Sullivan calls the pick “both a defensible policy pick and a brilliant piece of domestic politics. The visuals of Jeff Sessions laying into her will not help the GOP in exactly those places it desperately needs. Advantage: Obama.” [Atlantic]

• William Kristol suspects that the “confirmation could be an interesting ‘teaching moment’ — a politically important teaching moment — for constitutionalists who would beg to differ from Sotomayor’s vision of the appropriate role of the federal judiciary.” [Blog/Weekly Standard]

• Stuart Taylor Jr. thinks the Republicans lose politically whether they go after Sotomayor or not. [National Journal]

Sotomayor Is the GOP’s Latest Headache