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Is Sotomayor's confirmation a forgone conclusion?

   WASHINGTON — So often when a president picks a Supreme Court justice, Washington politics suddenly turns into something akin to Red Sox vs. Yankees. The two parties dig in and dig deep and argue that the nominee will either preserve and protect the Constitution or turn it into a paper airplane.

   But something different happened Tuesday, when President Obama nominated appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Justice David A. Souter.

   Democrats offered the kind of praise you might expect — but key Republicans spoke cautiously about Sotomayor and their approach to vetting her.

   Sotomayor's confirmation will surely get more confrontational as her hearings and a Senate vote draw closer, but there was something striking about the subdued GOP reaction on Tuesday.

   It's enough to make you wonder: are Republicans afraid of enraging the huge and growing Hispanic population, which reacted with joy to the appointment of the first Hispanic justice?

   Or did Sotomayor somehow manage to sit on the federal bench for nearly two decades without
leaving conservatives much ammunition to use against her?

   —Jerry Zremski


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