It is only ten months since the last election, and already congressional votes are being scrutinized based on how they will affect the 2010 midterms. This morning’s Post has an especially good take by an especially smart commentator, Chris Cillizza, whose columns have become must-reads in DC.
Cillizza looks at how the Sotomayor vote in the Senate will affect the midterms, noting that of the nine Republicans who supported her, four are retiring from the Senate. The problem for Republicans is that if they voted for Sotomayor, they can expect a primary challenge from the right. If they opposed her, they can expect to alienate some percentage of Latino voters. The only prominent Republican running for the Senate in 2012 to support Sotomayor was Congressman Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. If you have been to Lancaster County, PA, you know why: It boasts one of the fastest growing Puerto Rican populations in the country. It is the only place in America where you can pass an Amish horse-and-buggy on your way to pick up some shoefly pie, all the while listening to Olga Tanon and Marc Antony on the local radio.
In Florida, which also boasts a large Puerto Rican population along the I-4 Corridor in the central part of the state, Gov. Charlie Crist is locked in a primary battle with Marco Rubio, who is Cuban, not Puerto Rican, and who also opposed her nomination. Crist could not risk alienating conservative voters. So, too, former Congressman Rob Simmons in Connecticut, who is hoping to challenge Sen. Chris Dodd if Simmons can get past a primary battle with State Sen. Sam Caliguri and former Ambassador Tom Foley. Connecticut has a very large Puerto Rican population, only some of which is in Simmons’ former congressional district east of the Connecticut River.
On Saturday, CNN showed a restaurant in Spanish Harlem where people were watching the swearing-on ceremony for Sotomayor. They were cheering and clapping and some were crying. I do not know if Mexican-Americans in Texas feel the same way as Puerto Ricans in New York, but it was a moment of pride, dominating the news on the Spanish-language stations throughout the country. It is not news that politicians tend to base their votes based on how it will affect them in the next election. But, it might be news for the GOP that if they are going to vote against a supremely qualified Latina nominee for no good reason, there will be a price to pay, maybe not in the primary, but in November.