GOP ready to fight Sotomayor as Latino support for Republicans erodes

On the heels of a poll that shows Latino voter support for the Republican Party dropping into single digits, GOP senators are preparing to launch a new round of attacks on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, Roll Call reports.

Only 8 percent of Latino voters view the Republican Party favorably, compared with 86 percent who view it unfavorably, according to a nonpartisan Research 2000 poll released Monday by Daily Kos. That’s down from the already low esteem Latino voters had for Republicans before the Sottomayor nomination, The Plum Line’s Greg Sarget points out. In May, the GOP was viewed favorably by 11 percent of Latino voters and unfavorably by 79 percent.

Sargent draws a direct connection: “New poll numbers really seem to bear out the fears of some Republicans: The GOP’s quasi-opposition to Sotomayor seems to be hurting the party among Latinos in a big way.”

Politico reports Tuesday that some GOP senators appear to be backing off from early, vitriolic attacks on Sotomayor that saw out-of-office Republicans branding the nominee a “racist.”

The calculus could certainly change when Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings begin July 13. But the Republican senators’ initial review of Sotomayor’s record, together with the meetings they’ve had with her, have left them doubting that she’ll be controversial enough to help them or hurt the Democrats heading into the 2010 elections.

But not all Republican senators are on the same page. Roll Call reports Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, the ranking senator on the Judiciary Committee, “and other Republicans on the panel” plan to kick off a new round of criticism of Sotomayor from the Senate floor on Tuesday.

Specifically, Sessions and other Judiciary Republicans will take aim at her position on gun rights, the role of “empathy” in her rulings as a federal judge, and whether she has allowed foreign laws to inform her decisions in the past.

Republicans will also focus their critiques of Sotomayor on her involvement in the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the nation’s oldest Puerto Rican civil rights group.

If they’re concerned at all about those tumbling support numbers among the nation’s fastest-growing group of voters, Sessions and others might want to reconsider their plans to tar Sotomayor with membership in a Latino civil rights organization.

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo gained more ridicule than traction last month when he blasted the federal judge’s membership in the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization, comparing the National Council of La Raza with the racist Ku Klux Klan. In a cable television interview, Tancredo called La Raza ““a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses,” drawing a swift rebuke from the organization:

“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” National Council of La Raza spokesperson Lisa Navarrete told The Colorado Independent. “He’s defamed our organization and told falsehoods about our organization without any basis in fact or evidence. That’s not who we are or what we do.”

Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall connects the dots between problems Republicans are encountering with Latino voters, whom GOP operatives believed were a natural GOP constituency as recently as a few years ago, and the sway of politicians such as Tancredo and Sessions in the party:

The only problem is that the modern Republican party’s panic switch, or at least one of them, is rancid jingoism and more or less open anti-Hispanic (though often specifically targeted at Mexicans) prejudice.

[…] In other words, it’s not a mistake or incompetence or any lack of planning that has Republicans in such a bad position with Hispanics, America’s fastest growing ethnic group. It’s just that people who are hostile to Hispanic immigration and just Hispanics in general are one of the GOP’s key constituencies. That puts some real obstacles in the way of becoming the party of Hispanics. To put it mildly …

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