8 a.m. ET: The main storyline of Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination -- whether she'll be confirmed -- seems hardly in doubt, but her candidacy has already become the vehicle for other interesting subplots. On gun rights, abortion and even immigration reform, Sotomayor has provided the platform for advocates on both sides of the aisle to battle it out.
Sotomayor's abortion views are the focus of multiple front-pagers today. The New York Times says "some abortion rights advocates are quietly expressing unease that Judge Sotomayor may not be a reliable vote to uphold Roe v. Wade." As was the case with the man she would replace, David Souter, Sotomayor's paper trail on the issue is relatively thin. With Souter, conservatives made assumptions about his views that later came back to haunt them, and liberals hope to avoid making the same mistake today. The Los Angeles Times notes that "in her only abortion-related decision, she did not come down the way [abortion rights supporters] would have liked," referencing Sotomayor's role in upholding the constitutionality of the so-called Mexico City Policy in 2002. Per tradition, Sotomayor surely won't give a clear answer on her abortion views when she appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee, so will the White House find some other way to reassure its allies on this issue?
Gun rights groups also have a problem with Sotomayor's views, and in this case it's because of her substantive record, not her lack thereof. In particular, they cite a 2004 ruling in which Sotomayor joined two other judges to declare that "the right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right." You can expect conservative groups to put red-state Democratic Senators on the spot on this issue, pushing them to agree or disagree with Sotomayor. "These senators will jeopardize their seats if they vote to support an anti-gun radical for the Supreme Court," writes Ken Blackwell, warning that "you should never underestimate the political power of American gun owners."
Does Sotomayor's selection signal anything about President Obama's intentions on immigration reform? Mickey Kaus suggests "Sotomayor offers something to placate Hispanic lobbyists and politicians who aren't getting what they want on immigration." Mark Krikorian made the same point weeks before Sotomayor was even nominated, calling her a "consolation prize" for immigration reform advocates. And First Read opines that "this pick buys Obama A LOT of time with Hispanics." Is that really the case? Nominating Sotomayor might help shore up Obama's support among Latino voters in 2012, but will it really dampen the efforts of immigration reform advocates? Those activists seem likely still to be disappointed if Obama doesn't act soon on their issue, regardless of whom he nominates to the Supreme Court.
Beyond her impact on specific issues, you can expect Sotomayor's opponents to continue their assault on her overarching judicial philosophy. In a piece today on Sotomayor's "legal realism," the Wall Street Journal cites a speech Sotomayor delivered in 1996 in which she stated that courts and lawyers are "constantly overhauling the law and adapting it to the realities of ever-changing social, industrial and political conditions." Contrast that with conservatives' drumbeat that a justice should "act as a neutral umpire of the law," and the battle lines are clear. As Karl Rove posits this morning, "'Empathy' is the latest code word for liberal activism, for treating the Constitution as malleable clay to be kneaded and molded in whatever form justices want." You can expect a heated debate on that point before this process is over, even if everyone -- Rove included -- already knows how this story will end.
Correction: This item incorrectly stated that Sonia Sotomayor joined two other judges in a 2004 case to declare that "the right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right." That ruling, in United States v. Sanchez-Villar, actually quoted those words in a citation from a 1984 case, United States v. Toner. They were not the words of Sotomayor and her co-authors.
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