GOP Sen: Nominee could get 75 votes

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday launched her campaign to convince senators she’s worthy of a lifetime appointment, and at least one GOP member of the Judiciary Committee acknowledged her confirmation is all but a foregone conclusion.

But the Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, who requested anonymity, said the final tally will depend on her performance in the months ahead.

“It could be with 75 votes or it could be with 57 votes, and it depends on whether she assures people,” the senator said.

The Republican lawmaker noted that the GOP will focus on Sotomayor’s temperament while on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals and said if she lets her temper flare during confirmation hearings, it would erode GOP support.

Sotomayor worked to dispel any concerns in her meetings on Tuesday, and received a positive review from arguably the most important GOP member controlling her fate.

“She was engaging and animated and we had a good discussion,” said Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsJustice Department developing strategies to shut down ‘sanctuary cities’: report Sally Yates slams Sessions on criminal justice reform Preet Bharara emailed DOJ about phone call from Trump: report MORE (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, at a news conference after their private meeting. “I enjoyed it, and I think she did.

“Temperament is a factor in a judge’s qualifications — I think that’s pretty clear in most of the evaluation process as you go through, but I don’t think that it’s been established that she has a bad temperament,” he added. “I think that’s something that evidence may show as time goes by, one way or the other.”

Earlier in the day, Sotomayor explained to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyGoing national with automatic voter registration Republicans slam Trump’s new policy toward Cuba Trump draws a harder line on Cuba MORE (D-Vt.) her controversial comment from 2001 that suggested “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences” has better inherent legal judgment than “a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Leahy left satisfied with her answer. (Read the questionnaire from Leahy and Sessions that Sotomayor must fill out.)

“What she said was of course one’s life experience shapes who you are, but ultimately and completely — and she used those words, ‘ultimately and completely’ — as a judge, you follow the law.

Leahy lauded Sotomayor as a judge in the mold of retiring Justice David Souter, “with a great mind” and “impeccable” credentials, and blasted conservative critics such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) who have seized on that comment to accuse her of being a racist.

Leahy said the attacks might prompt him to speed up the schedule for hearings and give the nominee a chance to respond to the charges. Leahy said the committee would hold hearings no sooner than July but said it would be “irresponsible” to delay the proceedings until September.

The White House said Tuesday it would like the hearings to start by mid-July.

Sessions said he would prefer that the hearings take place in September, noting the high court’s fall term does not begin until Oct. 5. Leahy and Sessions are planning to meet Wednesday morning to hammer out a schedule.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDems see surge of new candidates Dems to grind Senate to a halt over ObamaCare repeal fight GOP fires opening attack on Dem reportedly running for Heller's Senate seat MORE (D-Nev.) pronounced himself “absolutely convinced” of Sotomayor’s qualifications and said “she made clear in that meeting that she is a person who is going to be a fantastic, superb Supreme Court justice.”

Sotomayor also met on Tuesday with Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Live coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Senate Dem offers patent reform bill MORE (Ill.), Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Sens. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerFCC advances proposal to unmask blocked caller ID in threat cases Trump: Pelosi's leadership good for the GOP Live coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (D-N.Y.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandBipartisan senators seek to boost expertise in military justice system Mattis gaining power in Trump’s Cabinet What do Democrats stand for? MORE (D-N.Y.), Orrin HatchOrrin HatchLive coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Grassley doesn't see how Judiciary 'can avoid' obstruction probe Ryan calls for tax reform to be permanent MORE (R-Utah) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinDem senators urged Obama to take action on Russia before election Senate panel questions Lynch on alleged FBI interference The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Calif.).

Conservative activists are pressing Senate Republicans to put up stiff opposition to Sotomayor.

The Third Branch Conference, a coalition of conservatives including David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; and Gary Bauer, president of American Values, signed a letter to GOP leaders urging them to consider a filibuster of Sotomayor. The effort was organized by Third Branch Chairman Manuel Miranda.

But Republican leaders, even those who voted against Sotomayor’s nomination to the 2nd Circuit in 1998, pledged to keep an open mind.

“That was then and this is now,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump making calls to senators on healthcare bill Trump called Cruz to press him on ObamaCare repeal bill: report Meadows: Senate bill lacks conservative support to pass House MORE (Ky.). “I’m willing to look at this nomination afresh and look at all of the cases, as we’ve been suggesting, and make a judgment after we have all the facts.”

Eleven sitting Republican senators voted against Sotomayor in 1998: McConnell, Sessions, Kyl and Sens. Sam Brownback (Kan.), Mike EnziMike EnziBudget committee approves Trump's OMB deputy Senate GOP paves way for ObamaCare repeal bill Senate returns more pessimistic than ever on healthcare MORE (Wyo.), Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleySenate panel questions Lynch on alleged FBI interference The Hill's 12:30 Report GOP senator surprises top Dem with birthday cake MORE (Iowa), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), James InhofeJames InhofeMcCain strikes back as Trump’s chief critic Turbulence for Trump on air traffic control Parliamentarian threatens deadly blow to GOP healthcare bill MORE (Okla.), John McCainJohn McCainFrustrated Dems say Obama botched Russia response Coats: Trump seemed obsessed with Russia probe The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (Ariz.), Pat RobertsPat RobertsThe Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Meet Jay Sekulow, the new face of Trump’s legal team Overnight Healthcare: Senate GOP eyes July vote on health bill MORE (Kan.) and Richard Shelby (Ala.).

Seven sitting GOP senators voted for Sotomayor a decade ago. They are Hatch and Sens. Bob Bennett (Utah), Thad CochranThad CochranDefense hawks gird for budget brawl Congressional politics hurts cotton farmers GOP senators dismiss Trump filibuster change MORE (Miss.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP Medicaid cuts will be disastrous for millions with Alzheimer’s Rocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill Overnight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they'll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticism MORE (Maine), Judd Gregg (N.H.), Richard Lugar (Ind.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

Gregg and Lugar said they were not certain whether they would support her again and that it would depend on a review of her record and her answers in meetings.

“I’m looking forward to the hearing and visiting with her,” said Lugar.

Hispanic groups are planning campaigns in the home states of several GOP senators to pressure them to support Sotomayor.

Brent Wilkes, the executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said his group would launch grassroots campaigns to pressure Kyl, McCain, Lugar, Hutchison, Texas Sen. John CornynJohn CornynLawmakers want meeting with Trump administration to take US-Mexico border trade Rocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R) and Florida Sen. Mel Martinez (R). Wilkes said his group had 36,000 members in Texas.

Republican strategists say their party must proceed carefully to avoid giving President Obama a bigger advantage among Hispanic voters, a gain that could help him significantly in 2012.

McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, saw the GOP’s share of Hispanic votes drop precipitously after a vicious intra-party fight over immigration.

“Language and tone matter,” said Danny Diaz, who served as communications director for the Republican National Committee in 2008.

“The way that this [Supreme Court nomination] debate is conducted is being watched very closely by an absolutely critical segment of the electorate, and we will be judged in the eyes of many by how we handle this nomination.”

J. Taylor Rushing contributed to this article.