Thursday, May 28, 2009 | 2:08 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- Considering Nevada’s robust Hispanic population, the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court poses a very telling political challenge for Nevada’s Sen. John Ensign.
As chairman of the Republican Policy Committee in the Senate, Ensign will play a serious role in crafting the tone and substance of his party’s approach to the confirmation process.
Ensign has already made it clear he intends “to make sure she has the right intellect and understands the proper role of a judge – to interpret and apply the written law, not to decide cases based on personal feelings, politics or preferences.”
Yet as a Nevadan, he must also be careful not to offend the state’s growing Hispanic population. Republicans have alienated Hispanic voters in recent years, notably with their hard-line on immigration.
Ensign offers a new face for the Republican Party – a rising, conservative national figure.
Ensign will stand for re-election (or higher office) in 2012. His actions in the Sotomayor process could compound his party’s problems with Hispanic voters or signal a fresh era.
As political guru Chris Cillizza writes on his blog "The Fix" in Thursday’s online editions the Washington Post:
Does Ensign “hold back on criticizing her in order to preserve his chances at another Senate term? Or does he go all-out in opposition to Sotomayor to raise his national profile and prove his conservative chops to Republican activists who have an outsized say in the identity of the next presidential nominee?”
Cillizza says Ensign will be among the top five senators to watch as the confirmation process begins.