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Road Map: GOP Laying Out the Opposition to Sotomayor

He also criticized statements that she has made that Republicans believe point to a tendency to try to use the judicial system to forward her own personal political beliefs.

“One of these is a statement she made a few years back that the court of appeals is, ‘Where policy is made.’ I think that’s a tough statement to square with Article III of the U.S. Constitution, which clearly contemplates a far more limited role for federal judges, and I suspect that a number of us over here in the legislative branch will want to ask Judge Sotomayor questions about that statement,” McConnell said.

McConnell is expected to use the Senate floor as a vehicle to build the party’s case against Sotomayor, and Republicans speaking about the nomination will likely become a familiar sight for C-SPAN viewers.

McConnell and Sessions had hoped to use Sunday’s talk-show circuit to establish the GOP critique of Sotomayor. But those plans were set back thanks to conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, former Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) and ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), who last week trumped the GOP message when they accused Sotomayor of being a racist.

Republicans said they hope they have put the controversy behind them. One leadership aide noted that Senate Republicans have held a number of conversations with the leaders of conservative organizations like the Federalist Society. During those meetings, Republicans have privately pressed them on the need to avoid incendiary comments and McConnell’s desire to maintain at least the air of impartiality, and most conservative leaders have agreed.

“They’re on the same page now,” the GOP leadership aide said.

As for Democrats, at this point they have a far easier hand to play — the effort by conservative activists to brand Sotomayor as a racist didn’t gain any traction and was an unwelcome distraction for Senate Republicans trying to take a more serious approach to the process.

And in the absence of any bombshells, Sotomayor’s Democratic defenders can be expected to stick to the White House script — she is a “tough but fair and thoughtful jurist who embodies the American dream,” one senior Democratic aide said.

Talking points distributed by Reid’s office on the nomination stress this notion, highlighting her personal background, her experience at all levels of the judicial system and her record on the court.

But one thing that Democrats are unlikely to do is engage in a tit-for-tat battle with Limbaugh, Gingrich and other conservative activists.

One Democrat explained that they don’t see a running battle with those elements of the GOP as a particularly helpful exercise for Democrats. And while they may take great pleasure in watching McConnell and his brethren struggle with elements of their base, Democrats will steer clear of inserting themselves into that fight.

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