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First thoughts: It's Sotomayor

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** It's Sotomayor: At 10:15 am ET from the White House's East Room, President Obama will again make history by nominating the first Hispanic to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court: Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd Circuit. The big question: Will she survive the confirmation process? Some Senate Democrats worry she'll be a heavier lift than others he could have nominated (like Diane Wood or Elena Kagan). But consider these points: One, it's clear Sotomayor -- whom the president knew the least about when this process began -- blew Obama away when he interviewed her on Thursday. In fact, White House officials believe that once Senate Democrats get to know her, they'll be as blown away as the president was, and she'll be confirmed easily. Two, would Republicans dare vote against the first Hispanic, especially after their rhetoric during the immigration debate of 2006-2007 clearly hurt them with this important voting bloc? And three, don't ignore the politics surrounding this pick. As we've mentioned before, Latino groups have been grumbling somewhat about their representation (or lack thereof) in the Obama administration, as well as the fact that immigration reform doesn't appear to be on the White House's front-burner. But this pick buys Obama A LOT of time with Hispanics -- a demographic he won last year, 67%-31% -- on immigration and other issues. Is it a coincidence that Obama this week heads out West to Nevada and California, two states with large Latino populations?


Video: President Obama announces federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor as his pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

*** Sotomayor's bio: Here's the bio we ran on Sotomayor earlier this month: She currently serves on the Second Circuit in New York and was appointed to that position by Bill Clinton. BUT she was appointed to her first federal court appointment by President George H.W. Bush… She checks lots of boxes: Woman. Hispanic. Empathy… While working for the famed Robert Morgenthau in the New York District Attorney's office in the early 1980s, she described herself as a "liberal."… Also has drawn criticism for saying in 2005: "All of the legal defense funds out there they're looking for people with court of appeals experience because it is-- court of appeals is where policy is made." She tried to backtrack, but conservatives are already rallying to defeat her based on this. Other bio information: Child of parents born in Puerto Rico... Grew up speaking mostly Spanish... Raised in a public housing project in The South Bronx in the shadow of Yankee Stadium... Father died when she was 9... A diehard Yankees fan, she's credited as the judge who saved baseball, issuing an injunction that led the eventual settlement of the 1990s-era Major League Baseball strike... Described by the New York Times in the early 1980s as an incessant smoker… Divorced from Kevin Edward Noonan in 1983 after seven-year marriage (no children). She left the NY District Attorney's office a year later and went into private practice... Graduated summa cum laude in 1976 from Princeton after winning a scholarship to the school... Earned her law degree from Yale in 1979, where she edited the Law Review.

*** Another crisis for Obama: In addition to Sotomayor, the other big political news has been North Korea's nuclear test, as well as its firing of two short-range missiles. What do you do about a country whose leadership is so unstable it doesn't respond to normal diplomatic overtures or threats? It's an enigma wrapped in a riddle. The Washington Post's editorial page says the time for reacting is gone. "It's time, at last, to break this pattern and call Mr. Kim's bluff. That doesn't mean threats of U.S military action or a blanket refusal to talk with the regime; those tactics have been tried and have failed as well. Instead, Mr. Obama should simply decline to treat North Korea as a crisis, or even as a matter of urgency." Of course, others like Council of Foreign Relations head Richard Haas believe it's time to ratchet things up more and get with Japan and South Korea and outline a "red line" for a military response. Key now is China and Russia, which have both amped up their rhetoric against North Korea more than they did during the Bush and Clinton years. But rhetoric is always the easy part…

*** Viva Las Vegas? After 4:00 pm ET today, Obama heads to Nevada, where he will attend a fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who's up for re-election next year, at Caesar's Palace at 10:55 pm ET. Awaiting the president is a Republican governor who's still angry at Obama's months-old remark that TARP recipients shouldn't be going on travel junkets to Las Vegas. "I am not interested in a handshake and a hello from President Obama," Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) said, per Nevada political expert Jon Ralston. "I am interested in an apology and plan to undo the damage the President did. Working families are suffering because of the president's remarks. The president should retract his reckless statement about Las Vegas and make a public statement supporting business and tourist travel to Las Vegas and other destinations in the State of Nevada." Of course, note that Gibbons might be trying to create a distraction here, given his own political troubles in the state. Attention reporters: Be sure not to over-report Reid's political troubles -- they are minor compared with Gibbons'. However, the prospect of two Reids (Harry and son Rory) leading the Dem ticket should trouble some Dems. After all, dynasties on the same ballot in the same state can turn off voters. Just ask Mike Huckabee when he and his wife were on the statewide ticket together in 2002. Mike won fairly handily; Janet got clobbered.

*** Another political story to watch out West: The California Supreme Court is set to decide today whether Proposition 8, the state ballot measure banning gay marriage that passed last fall, is constitutional. "Today's ruling decides whether voters had the right, when 52% of them approved Proposition 8 … to amend the state Constitution to solidify the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman," the San Francisco Chronicle writes. "If the justices uphold Prop. 8, they will also decide whether to dissolve the marriages of 18,000 same-sex couples who wed before the Nov. 4 election." Per the L.A. Times, "most legal experts expect the court to uphold Proposition 8 but continue to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples wed before the November election."

*** Report card time: Tomorrow is Day 100 since Obama's signing of the $787 billion stimulus package. The president will be coming out with a 100-day report card of sorts, as will each impacted cabinet department. Of course, North Korea and the Sotomayor pick will loom over the president's trip out West…

*** Firing up the base: On Friday, former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe fired off a note to Obama's email list, telling the 10 million-plus members that they'll be kicking off the grassroots support for health care on June 6. "On June 6th, in thousands of homes across the country, we'll gather to launch our grassroots campaign for health care," he said in the email. "We'll watch a special message from the President. We'll build the teams and draw up the plans for winning health care reform the same way we won the election: Building support one block, one neighbor, one conversation at a time. And we'll put those plans into action." The question is whether this grassroots mobilization will be more effective than the previous ones for the stimulus and Obama's budget, which didn't seem to fire up the base. Then again, both the stimulus and budget did pass Congress.

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