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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) Beauregard SessionsUnder pressure, Trump shifts blame for Russia intrusion Overnight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand 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 Joseph LeahyGrassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees Popular bill to fight drug prices left out of budget deal Judiciary Dems want public hearings with Kushner, Trump Jr. 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 Mason ReidWATCH: There is no Trump-Russia collusion and the media should stop pushing this The demise of debate in Congress ‘North by Northwest,’ the Carter Page remake 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinAmerica’s waning commitment to the promise of the First Amendment Senate rejects Trump immigration plan What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes MORE (Ill.), Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Sens. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats now attack internet rules they once embraced Schumer: Trump budget would ‘cripple’ gun background checks Schumer: Senate Republicans' silence 'deafening' on guns, Russia MORE (D-N.Y.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandAmerican women will decide who wins and loses in 2018 elections Dems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee Calls mount from Dems to give platform to Trump accusers  MORE (D-N.Y.), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchOvernight Finance: NAFTA defenders dig in | Tech pushes Treasury to fight EU on taxes | AT&T faces setback in merger trial | Dems make new case against Trump tax law | Trump fuels fight over gas tax What sort of senator will Mitt Romney be? Not a backbencher, even day one Lawmaker interest in NAFTA intensifies amid Trump moves MORE (R-Utah) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLawmakers feel pressure on guns Feinstein: Trump must urge GOP to pass bump stock ban Florida lawmakers reject motion to consider bill that would ban assault rifles 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers feel pressure on guns Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urge action on Export-Import Bank nominees Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure 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 EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziThe 14 GOP senators who voted against Trump’s immigration framework Mulvaney remarks on Trump budget plan spark confusion Overnight Finance: Breaking down Trump's budget | White House finally releases infrastructure plan | Why it faces a tough road ahead | GOP, Dems feud over tax-cut aftermath | Markets rebound MORE (Wyo.), Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyPavlich: The claim Trump let the mentally ill get guns is a lie Congress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks Grassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees MORE (Iowa), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense: First Gitmo transfer under Trump could happen 'soon' | White House says Trump has confidence in VA chief | Russia concedes 'dozens' of civilians injured in Syria clash Pentagon budget euphoria could be short-lived House passes deal to end shutdown MORE (Okla.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Democrats put Dreamers and their party in danger by playing hardball Trump set a good defense budget, but here is how to make it better MORE (Ariz.), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsOvernight Finance: Lawmakers, Treasury look to close tax law loopholes | Trump says he backs gas tax hike | Markets rise despite higher inflation | Fannie Mae asks for .7B Senators working on fix to agriculture provision in GOP tax law Trump budget would slash crop insurance funds for farmers 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 CochranOvernight Finance: Breaking down Trump's budget | White House finally releases infrastructure plan | Why it faces a tough road ahead | GOP, Dems feud over tax-cut aftermath | Markets rebound McConnell tees up budget deal McConnell urging Mississippi gov to appoint himself if Cochran resigns: report MORE (Miss.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand FCC to officially rescind net neutrality rules on Thursday 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 CornynLawmakers feel pressure on guns Kasich’s campaign website tones down gun language after Florida shooting Murphy: Trump’s support for background check bill shows gun politics ‘shifting rapidly’ 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.