In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Two new national polls show that Sonia Sotomayor is starting out the confirmation process with solid ratings among the American public -- a sign that the initial wave of right-wing attacks doesn't seem to be working.

In the new Gallup poll, 47% of Americans rated President Obama's choice of Sotomayor as either excellent or good, compared to only 33% who characterize it was fair or poor, and 20% with no opinion.

In the Rasmussen poll, Sotomayor has a 49% favorable rating among likely voters, against 36% unfavorable. In addition, 45% of likely voters said the Senate should confirm her, to 29% who say they should not, and 26% who don't know. Even more telling, 59% say it is very likely she will be confirmed, 28% say it is somewhat likely -- and only 4% say it is not very likely and 1% not likely at all.

There's at least one high-ranking Republican office-holder willing to insult Rush Limbaugh. Check out what California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said last night on CNN:

"Well I think that they say that Rush Limbaugh is the 800 lb. gorilla in the Republican Party," said Schwarzenegger. "But I think that's mean-spirited to say that -- because I think he's down to 650 lbs. I think one should be fair to him about this whole thing."

In all seriousness, Arnold talked about the need for a big tent. He acknowledged that the right wing does have an important place. "But we also need to create a center of the Republican Party," he said, "and I think that the bigger our tent is, the better it is."

Politico's Mike Allen let Sonia Sotomayor's SCOTUS nomination sink in for a couple days before settling on this fresh, and provocative analysis.

[T]he media's left-of-center bias is rarely more apparent than during court fights. The coverage running up to the pick was slanted heavily toward the notion of how "pragmatic" Obama's legal views are and how unlikely he was to pick a liberal.

Now we haven't done a sampling survey the way Allen apparently has, but I seem to recall at least a handful of reports about "concern" that Obama's front-runner (and now nominee) might lack the intellectual heft and good manners "necessary" to sit on the Court.

That, of course, was all basically laid to rest by the sorts of experts "concerned" reporters by and large didn't bother to call--a fact that explain why Allen's colleague, Jeanne Cummings reported today that, "[w]ith scant material for direct attacks, some social conservatives are trying to taint Sotomayor by association, namely with Obama."

It's an odd gambit to attack somebody by associating them with resoundingly popular things--but if there isn't much to criticize on the merits, I guess that's all they've got. And, obviously, that's not a sign of "left-of-center bias" either.

The new Quinnipiac poll of Pennsylvania finds that Sen. Arlen Specter has a big lead in the 2010 Democratic primary against his challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak: Specter 50%, Sestak 21%.

Pennsylvania Democrats also have a 70% favorable rating for their newest Democratic Senator, to only 14% unfavorable, and they believe by a 64%-18% margin that he deserves to be re-elected. Sestak remains an unknown for now, with only a 27% favorable rating among Democrats to 3% unfavorable, and 70% having no opinion.

In a general election match-up with conservative former Rep. Pat Toomey -- whose Republican primary challenge scared Specter into switching parties -- Specter has a lead of 46%-37%, down from 53%-33% margin earlier this month. Specter also leads Rep. Jim Gerlach, a possible GOP primary opponent of Toomey's, by 45%-36%. Sestak edges Toomey 37%-35% and leads Gerlach 36%-30%, with the higher undecided rate owing to Sestak being less well known than Specter. And in a Republican primary, Toomey leads Gerlach 38%-10%.

The survey was conducted May 20-26, before we broke the news that Sestak is in the race.

WaPo: Sotomayor Has Experience With Tough Confirmations The Washington Post looks back at Sonia Sotomayor's 1997 confirmation hearings to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which was a contentious process due to rumors that she could later be nominated for the Supreme Court. Sotomayor performed strongly, the Post says, though interestingly enough there was a tense exchange with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) -- now the head Republican on the Judiciary Committee -- over an apology she gave to a convicted defendant who was given a mandatory five-year sentence.

Obama's Day Ahead: Meeting With Mahmoud Abbas, And Hillary Clinton President Obama will be leaving Los Angeles at 10:35 a.m. ET, and is scheduled to arrive back at the White House at 3:15 p.m. ET. At 4 p.m. ET, he will have a one-on-one meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office. They will hold an expanded meeting at 4:45 p.m. ET. At 5:30 p.m. ET, Obama will meet in the Oval Office with Sec. of State Hillary Clinton.

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Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) appeared on CNN moments ago and confirmed what I first reported earlier today--that he intends to jump into the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), pending the blessing of his family.

Sestak has recently begun reaching out to donors in his state, informing them of his plans and asking them to contribute to his campaign in advance of the June 30 FEC filing deadline.

We've followed Sestak's rising star with great interest for months now.

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The Senate Judiciary Committee is already revving up for Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation process. This evening, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) Jeff Sessions (R-AL)--the committee's chairman and ranking member--released the questionnaire she will have to complete before hearings on her Supreme Court nomination begin. Give it a gander. The committee will make the completed form available once she responds in full.

Earlier today, our diligent front page editor Justin Elliott picked up on a curious article in The Hill about conservative critics of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

As you may have noticed, those critics have repeatedly cited a speech she delivered in 2001 at U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, in which she said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

The right is, of course, outraged. In the same speech, though, she also got a bit more personal: "For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir - rice, beans and pork - that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events," she said.

My Latina identity also includes, because of my particularly adventurous taste buds, morcilla, -- pig intestines, patitas de cerdo con garbanzo -- pigs' feet with beans, and la lengua y orejas de cuchifrito, pigs' tongue and ears.

Good lighthearted fun, right? Wrong.

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Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA), whose conservative primary challenge against Sen. Arlen Specter scared him into switching to the Democrats, has put out this a release welcoming Rep. Joe Sestak into the race as a Democratic primary challenger against Specter. Toomey contrasts the "principled liberal" Sestak against the "distortions and mudslinging" of Specter:

Toomey Welcomes Sestak Run

Looks Forward to Honest Campaign on the Issues

ALLENTOWN, PA - With news emerging that Rep. Joe Sestak is telling supporters he is going to run for the U.S. Senate, Pat Toomey welcomed Rep. Sestak to the race.

"While Joe Sestak and I disagree on a host of issues," Mr. Toomey said, "I commend him for being a principled liberal who stands up for his beliefs and values. I have always believed that Pennsylvania voters--not party bosses in Washington--should have the final say over whom their nominees will be."

"There would be no lack of substantive policy differences in a general election race between Pat Toomey and Joe Sestak, but Pennsylvanians would get the kind of refreshing campaign they deserve--honest and straightforward, without the distortions and mudslinging that characterize Arlen Specter's tired old approach to politics," added Toomey Communications Director Nachama Soloveichik. "If you want to see what kind of campaign Senator Specter will run, just look at the first ad he ran this year--an ad he was forced to remove from the airwaves because it contained blatantly false attacks on Pat Toomey. Pennsylvania Democrats are just as likely to reject Arlen Specter's politics of expediency as Pennsylvania Republicans did."

In an interview with Larry Kudlow on CNBC, Dick Cheney extended an olive branch to Colin Powell, saying that Powell is welcome in the Republican Party -- but the GOP itself must remain a conservative institution, lest the party go against its core supporters:

KUDLOW: Speaking of political, I guess you're trying to outline a message for the Republican Party here to limit government and limit taxation and so forth. You kind of took a shot at General Colin Powell the other day, said you didn't know he was still a member of the Republican Party. He responded to you by saying that you were mistaken. He is a member of the Republican Party, and he regards himself a, quote, "Jack Kemp Republican," end quote. Could you react to what Mr. Powell is saying?

Mr. CHENEY: Well, we're happy to have General Powell in the Republican Party. I was asked a question about a dispute he was having, I think, with Rush Limbaugh, and I expressed the consent, the notion I had that he had already left since he endorsed Barack Obama for president. But I meant no offense to my former colleague. I wasn't seeking to rearrange his political identity.

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