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.

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“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 SessionsJefferson (Jeff) SessionsFBI opens tip line requesting information on Charlottesville rally Sessions rails against Chicago during visit to Miami DOJ warrant of Trump resistance site triggers alarm 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 LeahyImmigration battlefield widens for Trump, GOP Grassley shouldn't allow Senate Democrats to block judicial nominees Trump’s rhetoric and bluster could lose US an ally in Mexico 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 ReidOPINION | 5 ways Democrats can win back power in the states THE MEMO: Trump's base cheers attacks on McConnell It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him 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 Richard DurbinDick DurbinOPINION | DACA helps people achieve the American dream, don't take it away Immigration battlefield widens for Trump, GOP 'Dreamers' deadline looms for Trump MORE (Ill.), Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Sens. Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerDemocrats urge Trump to condemn Charlottesville violence Melania Trump on Charlottesville protests: 'No good comes from violence' It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him MORE (D-N.Y.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDon’t let Congress amend the First Amendment Sanders plans to introduce single-payer bill in September Trump considering Giuliani law partner for US attorney in New York: report MORE (D-N.Y.), Orrin HatchOrrin HatchHatch urged Trump to ‘speak clearly’ against hate groups The Memo: Trump tries to quiet race storm Senators push FTC to finalize changes to contact lens rule MORE (R-Utah) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinTrump's Democratic tax dilemma Feinstein: Trump immigration policies 'cruel and arbitrary' The Memo: Could Trump’s hard line work on North Korea? MORE (D-Calif.).

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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’s isolation grows Ellison: Trump has 'level of sympathy' for neo-Nazis, white supremacists Trump touts endorsement of second-place finisher in Alabama primary 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 EnziSenate panel might not take up budget until October Debt group urges GOP chairman to avoid budget 'gimmicks' Fiscal hawks call for ‘mini-bargain’ on budget MORE (Wyo.), Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyWhite House clarifies: We condemn all violence Republican lawmakers criticize Trump response to Charlottesville Grassley reverses ‘expectation’ of Supreme Court vacancy this year MORE (Iowa), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), James InhofeJames InhofeWasting America’s nuclear opportunity McCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty GOP signals infrastructure bill must wait MORE (Okla.), John McCainJohn McCainBush biographer: Trump has moved the goalpost for civilized society White House to pressure McConnell on ObamaCare McCain: Trump needs to state difference between bigots and those fighting hate MORE (Ariz.), Pat RobertsPat RobertsNo. 2 Senate Republican backs McConnell in Trump fight Overnight Healthcare: McConnell warns Senate not to block repeal debate | Insurers knock Cruz proposal | WH tries to discredit CBO | Lawmakers propose .1B NIH funding boost Trump: I’ll be ‘very angry’ if Senate doesn’t pass ObamaCare repeal 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 CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranGOP senators ask Trump to hold off on Venezuelan oil sanctions Both sides of the aisle agree — telemedicine is the future Overnight Finance: GOP offers measure to repeal arbitration rule | Feds fine Exxon M for Russian sanctions violations | Senate panel sticks with 2017 funding levels for budget | Trump tax nominee advances | Trump unveils first reg agenda MORE (Miss.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsOPINION: Congress should censure Trump for his unfit conduct No. 2 Senate Republican backs McConnell in Trump fight The fight to protect the Affordable Care Act isn’t over 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.

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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 CornynImmigration battlefield widens for Trump, GOP Congressional investigations — not just special counsels — strengthen our democracy Wrath of right falls on Google 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.