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Sotomayor hearings: Big John

July 15, 2009 |  6:05 am

Tott-cornyn_kmtuejnc First out of the box today for the Republicans will be Sen. John Cornyn. The former Texas Supreme Court justice likes the idea of walking tall and carrying a big stick, Texas style, as a campaign video from last year illustrates.

But Big Bad John has a big problem. He hails from a state where Latinos make up about 36% of the population and where some might not take too kindly if he's a bit rough with the Supreme Court's first Latina nominee.

And he has another (Texas-sized) headache: As chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he's charged with the unenviable task of trying to win more Senate seats for the GOP -- which won't be easy without Latino voters on board.

In his opening statement Monday, Cornyn was almost abstract in his approach to Sotomayor -- speaking at length about his concern over the state of the American judiciary writ large and not upbraiding the nominee as others on his panel have done.

That could change today, however, as Republicans clearly want to paint the New York federal judge as both a beneficiary and a practitioner of identity politics. That means another healthy dose of "wise Latina" and the Connecticut firefighters case.

Sotomayor's testimony resumes at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time. The first round of questions are expected to take up the morning and perhaps part of the afternoon, and then senators will return for a shorter second round.

-- James Oliphant

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Photo: Sen. John Cornyn. Credit: Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty Images