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Republican Senators Ignore 'Hispanic Effect' in Sotomayor Confirmation Vote

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In the months after President Barack Obama's selection of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, political analysts and even a few Republicans (e.g. Joe Scarborough) have characterized GOP opposition to and harsh questioning of the new Associate Justice as politically unwise.

Such Republican Senators were cautioned and urged to use restraint by both those sympathetic to a successful Sotomayor confirmation and those who feared the backlash against the GOP that 'nay' votes would bring from the Hispanic community in forthcoming elections.

But looking deeper inside the numbers of Thursday's 68 to 31 vote in favor of Sotomayor finds Republicans were scarcely persuaded by these arguments.

A Smart Politics analysis finds that of the 21 Republican Senators representing the most populous Hispanic states in the GOP caucus, 20 voted against Sotomayor's confirmation. The only Republican to vote 'yea' in that group was Florida's Mel Martinez - the caucus' lone Hispanic.

Of the 19 GOP Senators representing the least populous Hispanic states, 8 voted for Sotomayor: Maine's Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, Ohio's George Voinovich, New Hampshire's Judd Gregg, Missouri's Kit Bond, Tennessee's Lamar Alexander, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, and Indiana's Richard Lugar.

Overall, the 31 Republican Senators voting against Sotomayor serve states with Hispanic populations averaging 10.1 percent - more than twice as large as the states from which the 9 GOP Senators who voted 'yes' (4.8 percent).

Republican Senator Sotomayor Confirmation Vote by Hispanic Constituency

State
Senator
Vote
% Hispanic
Texas
John Cornyn
No
36.0
Texas
Kay Bailey Hutchinson
No
36.0
Arizona
John McCain
No
29.6
Arizona
Jon Kyle
No
29.6
Nevada
John Ensign
No
25.1
Florida
Mel Martinez
Yes
20.6
Utah
Robert Bennett
No
11.6
Utah
Orrin Hatch
No
11.6
Idaho
Mike Crapo
No
9.8
Idaho
Jim Risch
No
9.8
Kansas
Pat Roberts
No
8.8
Kansas
Sam Brownback
No
8.8
Georgia
Johnny Isakson
No
7.8
Georgia
Saxby Chambliss
No
7.8
Nebraska
Mike Johanns
No
7.5
Wyoming
John Barrasso
No
7.4
Wyoming
Mike Enzi
No
7.4
Oklahoma
Tom Coburn
No
7.2
Oklahoma
Jim Inhofe
No
7.2
North Carolina
Richard Burr
No
7.1
Alaska
Lisa Murkowski
No
5.9
Indiana
Richard Lugar
Yes
5.0
Iowa
Charles Grassley
No
4.0
South Carolina
Jim DeMint
No
3.8
South Carolina
Lindsey Graham
Yes
3.8
Tennessee
Bob Corker
No
3.5
Tennessee
Lamar Alexander
Yes
3.5
Louisiana
David Vitter
No
3.2
Missouri
Kit Bond
Yes
3.0
Alabama
Richard Shelby
No
2.7
Alabama
Jeff Sessions
No
2.7
New Hampshire
Judd Gregg
Yes
2.5
Ohio
George Voinovich
Yes
2.5
South Dakota
John Thune
No
2.3
Kentucky
Mitch McConnell
No
2.2
Kentucky
Jim Bunning
No
2.2
Mississippi
Roger Wicker
No
2.1
Mississippi
Thad Cochran
No
2.1
Maine
Olympia Snowe
Yes
1.2
Maine
Susan Collins
Yes
1.2
Note: Data compiled by Smart Politics.

And as for those Republican Senators who will be on the ballot in 2010?

All twelve voted against the confirmation, including John McCain - whose constituency is 29.6 percent Hispanic - and three Republicans who won their contests in 2004 with less than 10 percent of the vote: Alaska's Lisa Murkowski (3.0 points), North Carolina's Richard Burr (4.6 points), and South Carolina's Jim DeMint (9.6 points).

The votes by Murkowski, Burr, and DeMint are particularly telling as it was thought by some that vulnerable Republicans had more to lose by voting against Sotomayor, by potentially alienating Hispanic voters in their states.

But the numbers show otherwise.

The average margin of victory by those 31 GOP Senators voting 'nay' on Sotomayor's nomination was seven points lower than those 9 Senators who voted for the new Associate Justice (23.6 points to 30.5 points percent respectively).

When eliminating from analysis those seven Republican senators who have announced their retirement (Martinez, Bond, Gregg, Voinovich, Kentucky's Jim Bunning, Kansas' Sam Brownback) or forthcoming resignation (Texas' Kay Bailey Hutchinson), the gap is even more pronounced: an average 23.6-point margin of victory for those voting against and a 39.9-point margin of victory for those voting in favor.

Overall, the 12 Republican Senators with the lowest margin of victory in the GOP caucus (and who have not announced their retirement) all voted against Sotomayor.

Republican Senator Sotomayor Confirmation Vote by Margin of Victory in Previous Election

State
Senator
Vote
MoV
On ballot
Idaho
Mike Crapo
No
99.2
2010
Indiana
Richard Lugar
Yes
74.8
2012
Arizona
John McCain
No
56.1
2010
Maine
Olympia Snowe
Yes
53.4
2012
Wyoming
Mike Enzi
No
51.4
2014
Wyoming
John Barrasso
No
46.9
2012
Iowa
Charles Grassley
No
42.3
2010
Kansas
Sam Brownback
No
41.7
retiring
Utah
Robert Bennett
No
40.3
2010
Alabama
Richard Shelby
No
35.2
2010
Tennessee
Lamar Alexander
Yes
33.4
2014
New Hampshire
Judd Gregg
Yes
32.5
retiring
Utah
Orrin Hatch
No
31.3
2012
Ohio
George Voinovich
Yes
27.7
retiring
Alabama
Jeff Sessions
No
26.8
2014
Texas
Kay Bailey Hutchinson
No
25.7
resigning
Kansas
Pat Roberts
No
23.6
2014
Idaho
Jim Risch
No
23.5
2014
Mississippi
Thad Cochran
No
22.9
2014
Maine
Susan Collins
Yes
22.8
2014
Louisiana
David Vitter
No
21.7
2010
Georgia
Johnny Isakson
No
17.9
2010
Nebraska
Mike Johanns
No
17.5
2014
Oklahoma
Jim Inhofe
No
17.5
2014
South Carolina
Lindsey Graham
Yes
15.3
2014
Nevada
John Ensign
No
14.4
2012
Missouri
Kit Bond
Yes
13.3
retiring
Texas
John Cornyn
No
12.0
2014
Oklahoma
Tom Coburn
No
11.5
2010
Mississippi
Roger Wicker
No
10.0
2012
Arizona
Jon Kyle
No
9.8
2012
South Carolina
Jim DeMint
No
9.6
2010
Kentucky
Mitch McConnell
No
5.9
2014
North Carolina
Richard Burr
No
4.6
2010
Alaska
Lisa Murkowski
No
3.0
2010
Georgia
Saxby Chambliss
No
2.9
2014
Tennessee
Bob Corker
No
2.7
2012
Kentucky
Jim Bunning
No
1.3
retiring
South Dakota
John Thune
No
1.2
2010
Florida
Mel Martinez
Yes
1.1
retiring
Note: Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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2 Comments


  • Could this be the stereotypical "old white Republican male" that voted against Judge Sotomayor? Although it was more of a vote against any "Obama nominee", it will certainly reinforce the generalization of the republican as that of an old white southern males.

    I have to wonder how Governor Pawlenty would have voted for this nominee. After all, he does represent the hope and the future of the "next generation of republicans". As such it would be interesting if he is keenly aware of the demographic of America and how it is changing, and how he might integrate that fact into his mission to expand the tent of the republican party.

  • I think that the bottom line of how this is presented is that there are a bunch of Republican white guys who are ignoring their constituencies. But I think the reality is much more complex. Two points I would make. I think that the Republicans are making a much bigger play here to ignite a larger race debate in America. When you couple this vote with the "birther" discussion about whether our 'black" president is really a citizen, the "poor white guys" discussion by Pat Buchanan on the Rachel Maddow show, Rush Limbaugh's comments on race, etc, I think the play by the Republicans isn't about Sotomayor but about fearing a black president.

    Another comment is that the Latino community is incredibly diverse in its political views. In part, it is because the "Latino community" really comes from many different places and doesn't have one uniform experience. I think it is simple and naive of the media for it to assume that someone of Puerto Rican descent born in the United States represents all Latinos and that every "Hispanic" will vote depending on how their representative voted on this one issue. This really misses the diversity of these communities.

  • Leave a comment


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