After the 2004 presidential election it appeared that the Democratic Party was dead as a national force. If they could not beat Bush in 2004, they simply could not win on the national scale. Regardless of your political views, it was obvious that the Republicans played the political game much better than the Democrats. But what a difference four years and Barack Obama makes. Now people are saying the same things about the Republican Party. Simply put, President Obama and his team do not get out politicked by the the Republicans.
With the appointment to the Supreme Court Monday of Sonia Sotomayor, Obama made a political maneuver that a few years ago Democrats appeared incapable of making. Here are two articles discussing the politics of the appointment: 1, 2. The beauty of the appointment was that it both played to Democratic base and threatened to further drive a wedge between Republicans and swing voters. One article noted that:
He played smart base politics with the historic selection of a Hispanic (a first) and a woman.
The other article noted:
By nominating Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the first Hispanic justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, President Barack Obama all but dared Senate Republicans to risk alienating Latinos by trying to block her confirmation.
It was a foregone conclusion that Obama would appoint someone who Republicans viewed as a "liberal." By appointing a Hispanic woman ,Obama should strengthen Democratic popularity with Hispanic and women voters. The more Republicans attack Sotomayor, the more they risk alienating Hispanic voters, a group who Republicans are surely not ready to give up on.
While Senate Republicans will be under pressure from their base to attack Sotomayor, that would be politically foolish. Baring an unforeseen scandal, Sotomayor will be confirmed by the Senate. It makes little sense for the Republicans to alienate swing voters in order to pander to a base who they cannot lose. What is the Rush Limbaugh wing of the party going to do, start supporting Obama? The President will likely get to fill at least two more seats on the Court, so the Republicans should save their attacks for the next "liberal" appointment.
Of course, the fractured Republican Party may cave to its base and attack Sotamayor. If so, look for the attack dogs to be senators from red states like Mississippi that are locked up for the Republicans and have a low Hispanic population. Republicans should instead focus on regaining the party’s identity and determining who will lead the party going forward.