The Raw Politics of the First Latina Supreme Court Nominee

May 26, 2009 6:49pm

Except in the vaguest terms making a nod to the “historic” nature of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination, the White House won’t touch the issue of her race in terms of how being the first Latina Supreme Court nominee will affect her confirmation chances.

“I’m not going to get into the politics and the demographics of it,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said today when asked about the potential racial politics. “I think we would expect that anybody in the Senate and anybody in the public, honestly, would evaluate her on the strength of her credentials rather than on any other factor.”

But the racial politics are there and unmistakable.

One Democrat said to ABC News that in a dark way he was “longing for a prolonged confirmation hearing” with Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. — a conservative white male Southerner — leading the inquisition.

And in terms of pure optics – forgoing the merits of the Sotomayor nomination – that is something that Republicans are more than aware of, and sensitive about.

Republicans in Washington, DC, say – off the record – that they don’t want to alienate Hispanic voters any more than occurred during the immigration reform debate, and this nomination puts them in a bind that another nominee with the same exact record would not.

-jpt

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