In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Marco Rubio, the conservative Republican Senate candidate who is challenging the establishment-backed moderate Gov. Charlie Crist, just announced the endorsement of a member of the Bush family: Jeb Bush, Jr.

Rubio posted this Tweet: "Proud to announce the endorsement of Jeb Bush Jr. He will be a great asset in our efforts to reach the next generation of GOP leadership."

Bear in mind that while the Bush family name is now generally garbage in the rest of the country, the relatively more competent Jeb Bush, Sr., still retains popularity in Florida -- especially among the conservative GOP base. The question is whether the son's support will have enough credibility with those same activists who might hearken back to his father's two terms as governor.

Conservatives have curiously decided that one of the best ways to battle Obama's first Supreme Court nominee is by declaring a war on empathy. When he described his criteria for selecting a replacement for Justice David Souter, Obama said, "I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook, it is also about how are laws effect the daily realities of peoples lives.... I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with peoples' hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes."

This is, apparently, a bridge too far for conservatives, and, at least in the minds of some on the right, political gold. But while they continue to mock the idea--and while the media by and large passes their objections along uncritically--they seem to have forgotten that one conservative Justice was also sold to the public as a man of great empathy.

"I have followed this man's career for some time," said President George H.W. Bush of Clarence Thomas in July 1991. "He is a delightful and warm, intelligent person who has great empathy and a wonderful sense of humor."

The Thomas confirmations ultimately became the stuff of legend--but not because Democrats decided to go all in on attacking Thomas' "empathy."

The new Quinnipiac poll of Connecticut shows Chris Dodd continuing to struggle in his 2010 re-election bid -- though he might actually be improving from his previous doldrums.

Dodd trails former GOP Congressman Rob Simmons by a margin of 45%-39%, and Dodd edges out state Sen. Sam Caligiuri by 41%-39%, within the ±2.5% margin of error. In early April, Simmons led Dodd by 50%-34%, and Caligiuri was ahead by 41%-37%.

One number shows that Dodd still has a lot of weakness among the Democratic base: Against his primary challenger, businessman and first-time candidate Merrick Alpert, Dodd only has a lead of 44%-24%, with the incumbent below 50% against an unknown.

From the pollster's analysis: "Sen. Christopher Dodd's numbers are getting better but they are still lousy. He still has high negatives: About half of the voters don't trust Dodd and disapprove of the job he is doing. And he is still behind Simmons in a general election matchup."

Liberal Group Launches Pro-Sotomayor Ad A new group called the Coalition for Constitutional Values, a joint venture of the the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Alliance for Justice and People for the American Way, is going up on the air today with this new six-figure ad buy on national network news and cable news to promote Sonia Sotomayor:

The ad uses on-screen text to go into Sotomayor's background and rise from humble roots, while using audio of President Obama from a few weeks ago, discussing what he would seek in a Justice: "Someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory -- it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of peoples' lives."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be touring the solar photovoltaic array at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, at 2 p.m. ET. He will deliver remarks on the progress made in the first 100 days of the stimulus act, at 2:40 p.m. ET. He will depart from Vegas for Los Angeles at 3:30 p.m. ET, and will attend a DNC fundraiser at 10:05 p.m. ET at the Beverly Hills Hilton.

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When Republicans and conservatives aren't on television suggesting Sonia Sotomayor isn't fit to serve on the Supreme Court (or just outright insulting her)--when they go home at night and seriously consider what's best for them and their movement--they should keep a couple things in mind:

First, that retiring Justice David Souter isn't really all that conservative. Second, that, notwithstanding her upbringing and all the cable chatter, Sotomayor isn't unusually liberal--which is to say, the political makeup of the court won't be radically altered when she replaces him. Third, that if they lock arms and pull out all the stops and somehow block her nomination, there are plenty of other liberal jurists--some more liberal than she is--to take her place.

Technically, Republicans come into the Sotomayor confirmation process in an extremely weak position. Their caucus is only 40 members large. Four of those members are women. One is hispanic. And their ranks are teeming with people who've loudly decried the idea of filibustering judicial nominees in the recent past.

Now that same crew is faced with the prospect of playing the opposition (loyal or otherwise) to a 54 year old Hispanic female with honors degrees from Princeton and Yale and heaps of experience on the bench. Not exactly ideal circumstances.

At the same time, though, they've proven perfectly willing to stand athwart other, similarly qualified Obama nominees, most of whom serve (or will serve) in the executive branch for only a few years at the most.

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Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) released this statement today on the Sotomayor nomination, reminding us all that he voted against her confirmation to the appeals court in 1998 -- and apparently questioning whether she can make rulings independent of her race and gender:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) made the following statement regarding President Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Inhofe was one of 29 U.S. Senators that voted against Sotomayor's nomination to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998.

"Without doubt, Judge Sotomayor's personal life story is truly inspiring. I congratulate her on being nominated. As the U.S. Senate begins the confirmation process, I look forward to looking closer at her recent rulings and her judicial philosophy.

"Of primary concern to me is whether or not Judge Sotomayor follows the proper role of judges and refrains from legislating from the bench. Some of her recent comments on this matter have given me cause for great concern. In the months ahead, it will be important for those of us in the U.S. Senate to weigh her qualifications and character as well as her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences."

As Dana Goldstein points out, this does raise the question of whether Inhofe thinks the seven white men on the court are immune from any similar questions.

Mike Huckabee has some high praise for Michael Steele -- though it's not the most graceful acclaim ever given.

"I'm not sure anyone else could be as effective in challenging the Obama policies any more so than Michael," said Huckabee. The reason: "Well, I believe that that no one is gonna be able to use the racism charge."

Fun fact: Steele said last week Obama won with the help of the media -- who didn't vet him because he's black.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has some thoughts on Sotomayor, too. "Of primary importance," he says, "we must determine if Ms. Sotomayor understands that the proper role of a judge is to act as a neutral umpire of the law, calling balls and strikes fairly without regard to one's own personal preferences or political views."

Pretty standard stuff. But then he warns that the confirmation process might last beyond the fall, when the Supreme Court begins its next term.

President Obama has stated his desire to have a full court seated at the start of its next term, a reasonable goal toward which the Judiciary Committee should responsibly and diligently move. But we must remember that a Supreme Court justice sits for a lifetime appointment, and the Senate hearing is the only opportunity for the American people to engage in the nomination process. Adequate preparation will take time. I will insist that, consistent with recent confirmation processes, every senator be accorded the opportunity to prepare, ask questions, and receive full and complete answers.

That's not outrageous, but it should be noted that the confirmation processes for Justices Roberts and Alito lasted about two and three months respectively. If that's the window Sessions has in mind, I'm sure Judge Sotomayor would be much obliged.

Late update: Just as a point of reference, when Roberts and Alito were under consideration in the Senate, Sessions took care to refer to both men as judges in his press releases.

Earlier today, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) called in to MSNBC to raise concerns about a judge whom he's supported twice.

Hatch cites, among other things, an article Sotomayor wrote in 1996--two years before he supported her confirmation to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. But, he says, the Supreme Court is a different thing altogether.

As a senior, and influential, member of the Judiciary Committee, Hatch will have significant sway over how quickly and smoothly the coming confirmation process moves forward.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)--who's been giving Barack Obama a tough time of late--has released a statement on the Sotomayor nomination. "President Obama is to be commended for selecting a nominee with a significant breadth and depth of legal experience to replace retiring Justice David Souter," Nelson says, "I look forward to learning more about Judge Sonia Sotomayor's background, record and qualifications -- and to meeting with her to discuss her judicial philosophy -- as this important United States Supreme Court nomination moves forward."

Nelson supported both of George W. Bush's Supreme Court nominees, and gave the previous President wide latitude on judicial and executive nominations in general. But in recent weeks he's become a key obstacle to the confirmation of Dawn Johnsen, who Obama nominated to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel months ago.

His full statement is below the fold.

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