The day after Souter announced his retirement, conservative fundraiser Dan Morgan laid out the game to Jonathan Allen of Congressional Quarterly, "This is a nuclear weapon for the conservatives out there. When you do fundraising, there is an emotional component in this. And boy, the emotion is there magnified times 100. The Supreme Court is great. That`s going to be mail. That`s going to phone calls. The clients I work with are in meetings already. There are letters being written already."
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That explains quite a bit. Because if you take a step back from all the angry noise on cable news about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, you realize that all of the conservatives directing outrage her way don't really seem to have tons of representation in Congress. Aside from the occasional backdoor insult from conservative senators like James Inhofe (R-OK) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the response from the GOP has ranged from modest skepticism to modest congratulations.
There are a lot of reasons for that, but, breaking it down to its simplest components, Sotomayor is a qualified and politically sympathetic figure; there's no clear precedent for killing her nomination, and there's just about nothing to gain--and much to lose--by attacking her.
But the calculus is different if you work in the conservative movement. By ginning up controversy where none exists, these activists get free press and free money and a micro-movement with which to corral fellow travelers into common cause. But who are they? Below, a rundown of some of the key players.