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First thoughts: To fight or retreat?

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** To fight or retreat? While Washington gears up for a Supreme Court fight, do remember this: Sonia Sotomayor wouldn't change the court's ideological make up. After all, swapping a reliably liberal vote in Souter for an apparently liberal vote in Sotomayor is a wash. Perhaps realizing that -- as well as looking at the polls and the selection's historic nature -- Republican senators were very measured with their statements yesterday. Their response was essentially the same: Sotomayor deserves a fair hearing where they can scrutinize her record. In fact, Mitch McConnell's office this morning sent an email to reporters hitting President Obama on job creation, not Sotomayor. That may be the most telling response. But the reaction coming from the conservative base is MUCH different. The National Republican Trust PAC, for instance, called Sotomayor a "radical nominee," adding: "Republican senators should strongly oppose her nomination. The NRT PAC and their constituents will hold them accountable if they do not." Also, Rush said she was a "reverse racist," and Mitt Romney called her nomination "troubling." This divide between the base and the senatorial establishment presents a potential quandary for Republicans: The GOP base wants a fight, while their elected officials want to hold off -- for now.

Video: TODAY's Natalie Morales talks to NBC's Chuck Todd about how Republicans and Democrats are responding to President Obama's Supreme Court pick, Sonia Sotomayor.

*** A 2012 litmus test? Also remember that John Roberts and Samuel Alito became Democratic presidential primary litmus tests -- explaining why anyone with White House ambitions (Obama, Hillary Clinton) voted against them. The Sotomayor vote for Republicans thinking about 2012 might play out similarly. If you are wondering who is pondering a presidential run in 2012 among GOP senators, our guess is that the "no" vote roll call will be a good starting place.

*** Roll out the barrel, we'll have a barrel of fun: For Supreme Court nominations, Rollout Day is always important. And -- to borrow a metaphor from Sotomayor's favorite sport -- yesterday was a homerun for the Obama White House. In fact, it was as good as the Roberts rollout. A misty-eyed mom? Check. Multiple references to Sotomayor's humble background? Check. Adding that she saved Major League Baseball? Check. The only thing that seemed to be missing was the apple pie. Also, the Democratic responses yesterday were measured, as were the GOP ones (it probably helped that Obama waited until Congress was on recess to unveil his pick). In short, with 60 Senate Democratic votes in reach, Sotomayor's odds of being confirmed are extraordinarily high. Then again, as we learned with Tom Daschle's HHS nomination, nothing is ever a sure thing in American politics.

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

*** Avoiding the culture wars: Here's another thing that caught our eye about Sotomayor, courtesy of the New York Times: "Judge Sotomayor ... has issued no major decisions concerning abortion, the death penalty, gay rights or national security." So even with his SCOTUS pick, Obama has found a way to downplay or avoid direct debates on hot-button cultural issues – although race and affirmative action will certainly be topics surrounding the Sotomayor selection. Still, it's striking that Sotomayor has avoided dealing with any cases on abortion or guns or gay marriage. And as we have pointed out before, the president has gone out of his way to avoid gun issues (see credit card bill), gay issues (see Prop. 8 in California) abortion (his flip-flop on that abortion legislation), and immigration (he simply wants to enforce the laws on the books first). Somewhere, Heath Shuler is thanking Rahm…

*** Let the TV ads begin! One day after Sotomayor's nomination, the liberal-leaning Coalition for Constitutional Values (made up of the Alliance for Justice, People for the American Way, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights) announced that it will begin airing a six-figure TV ad on national network and cable news praising the Sotomayor pick. The spot highlights her qualifications and her personal story. Dems seem to be borrowing a page from the GOP playbook. Remember how quickly Republican legal groups had ads up praising Roberts and Alito?

Video: Karl Rove Tuesday questioned the intellect of Sonia Sotomayor.

*** What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? At 2:00 pm ET today, in Las Vegas, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tour a solar photovoltaic array (translation: a solar farm) at Nellis Air Force. And then 40 minutes later, the president will deliver comments marking the 100th day since his stimulus package became law. By the way, the likely reason the White House changed today's event from a town hall to just straight remarks is so Obama could avoid questions about his comment about Vegas in February, when he said that U.S. companies receiving bailout money shouldn't be taking trips to Las Vegas on taxpayers' dimes. Locals are still mad about that Vegas remark (though we believe that 99% of America agrees with it), and we bet he tries to fix that today.

*** Obama and Prop. 8: Later this evening, Obama travels to Los Angeles, where he attends another fundraiser -- this time for the DNC. Just askin', but with Obama in California, is he going to comment on yesterday's Prop. 8 ruling?

Video: NBC's Pete Williams reports on the Calif. Supreme Court upholding Proposition 8.

*** Another em-Burris-ing revelation: Remember Roland Burris? Well, last night, his office announced that he is embarking today on a two-day swing through downstate Illinois. But he's got much bigger things to worry about. As the papers are reporting, he's ON TAPE saying that he'd be willing to throw a fundraiser for Rod Blagojevich, and discusses trying to do it at his law firm under someone else's name so that he's not implicated if the news ever gets out.

*** Elsewhere today: Vice President Biden delivers the commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy at 10:00 am ET… Secretary of State Clinton lunches with Egypt's foreign minister and intelligence chief… And National Security Adviser Jim Jones speaks at 5:30 pm ET before the Atlantic Council; it's his first speech on the administration's approach to national security.

Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 6 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 13 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 160 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 524 days

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