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 SessionsIntel leaders: Collusion still open part of investigation Republicans jockey for position on immigration Biden to Alabama: No more extremist senators 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 LeahyOvernight Regulation: Massachusetts AG sues Equifax | Trump weighs easing rules on gun exports | EPA nominee to fight worker safety rule in court Trump to ease rules on gun exports: report Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions 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 ReidChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Republicans are headed for a disappointing end to their year in power Obama's HHS secretary could testify in Menendez trial 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 DurbinGun proposal picks up GOP support Durbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration MORE (Ill.), Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Sens. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Crying on TV doesn't qualify Kimmel to set nation's gun agenda Trump knocks ‘fake’ news coverage of his trip to Puerto Rico MORE (D-N.Y.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Overnight Energy: Dems take on Trump's chemical safety pick Dems lambaste Trump’s ‘outrageous’ EPA chemical safety pick MORE (D-N.Y.), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchGOP eyes limits on investor tax break Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Overnight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot MORE (R-Utah) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGun proposal picks up GOP support Gingrich: Banning rapid fire gun modification is ‘common sense’ House bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance 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 McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform 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 EnziThis week: Congress gets ball rolling on tax reform How the effort to replace ObamaCare failed Senate GOP budget paves way for .5T in tax cuts MORE (Wyo.), Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyRepublicans jockey for position on immigration House clears bill to combat crimes against elderly Grassley: DACA deal wouldn't need border wall funding MORE (Iowa), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeA third of Congress hasn’t held a town hall — it’s time to take action Anonymous affiliate publishes claimed list of GOP private contact info Wasting America’s nuclear opportunity MORE (Okla.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA's woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy MORE (Ariz.), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsThe Hill's Whip List: Republicans try again on ObamaCare repeal No. 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 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 CochranWhite House requests B for disaster relief GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers Whatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong MORE (Miss.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGun proposal picks up GOP support Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns Agricultural trade demands investment in MAP and FMD 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 CornynGun proposal picks up GOP support House bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Republicans jockey for position on immigration 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.