It’s Sotomayor

by Brien Jackson

President Obama announced that he would, in fact, be┬ánominating Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd District Court of appeals to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the United States Supreme Court. Sotomayor had faced the most push back of any of the potential nominees rumored to be on Obama’s short list, punctuated by Jeffrey Rosen’s article in The New Republic arguing, based entirely on anonymous sources, that Sotomayor is “not that smart,” degrees from Princeton and Yale notwithstanding. If confirmed, Sotomayor would become the 3rd woman to ever sit on the Court, and the first Hispanic.

The question┬ánow, of course, is how the confirmation battle will shake out. Democrats have a large majority in the Senate, although Ben Nelson of Nebraska has indicated that he may be open to filibustering the nominee. Still, it seems likely that Sotomayor will easily have more than 60 votes in favor of confirmation. 8 current Republican Senators voted to confirm her when President Clinton nomiated her to the 2nd district in 1998, after 7 years on the Circuit Court, and a reversal now would be pretty hard to square away on the merits. Moreover, Sotomayor’s race makes it somewhat complicated to oppose her too vigorously. Hispanics are growing rapidly as a voting demographic, and represented the most dramatic shift in the 2008 election from 2004 (Obama bested Kerry’s performance amongst Hispanics by about 20%, whereas he improved on Kerry’s total with white voters by a mere 2%), and Republican Senators in the Southwest will have a particularly difficult time being overly aggressive in their opposition.

The conservative base will, of course, make a lot of noise (and raise a lot of money) over the prospect of opposing Obama’s nominee, but at the end of the day, the votes are just there to confirm, and Senate Republicans on the whole are unlikely to go all in on something of a landmine topic if they know there’s little to no chance of winning.