What's Ahead for Sotomayor?

Republican Leaders Concerned About Alienating Hispanics and Women

Sotomayor may be simply enjoying the honeymoon phase of her nomination. The real mudslinging is still to come.

So far, Republican leaders are concerned about pushing too strongly lest they alienate Hispanics and women -- two key voting blocks that they have had trouble with in recent elections.

As a result, Democratic officials say the Republicans are backed into a corner with the Sotomayor nomination.

"The Republicans only have so many options," said one party official. "They can't generate enough votes on an up or down vote, so their approach so far has been, 'Hold your fire early and see where the center of gravity is as things move on in the process.'"

Democratic officials say that because of the strength of the nominee, there isn't a feeling in the White House that it needs to react to everything that a Republican senator or interest group says about Sotomayor.

But last week, the White House did step in to try and nip in the bud a growing controversy over a Sotomayor quote from 2001.

In a speech at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law that year, Sotomayor said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and talk radio host Rush Limbaugh were quick to pounce on those comments and characterize them as racist.

After days of insisting that it was necessary to read Sotomayor's entire speech in order to understand she didn't mean anything offensive, the White House admitted that she would choose her words differently if giving that speech today.

"I'm sure she would have restated it," Obama said Friday. "But if you look in the entire sweep of the essay that she wrote, what's clear is that she was simply saying that her life experiences will give her information about the struggles and hardships that people are going through, that will make her a good judge."

Gibbs said, "I think she'd say her word choice in 2001 was poor."

About her use of the word "better," Gibbs said, "I think if she had the speech to do all over again I think she'd change that word."

The White House may be choosing its battles, but it is being proactive in its cheerleading of and rallying support for Sotomayor.

Calling her nomination "a home run," Vice President Biden sent out an e-mail to the 10 million subscribers on the Obama campaign's mailing list asking for supporters to sign a petition indicating they "Stand with Sotomayor."

Biden, a veteran of six Supreme Court confirmation hearings as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that his experience taught him that "the debate of the coming weeks and months will be shaped by the public response in the next few hours and days."

"It's critical that the Senate and the public clearly see where the American people stand," he wrote. "In these crucial early hours, let us leave no doubt about the people's support for this extraordinary nominee."

Obama: Confirm Sotomayor by August Recess

The White House has made it clear that it wants a confirmation vote by the Senate's August recess.

President Obama wants Sotomayor on the bench when the next court term begins in October and wants her to have August and September to familiarize herself with the cases and get settled into the new job.

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