The Supreme Court nomination of a Latina judge, Sonia Sotomayor, is forcing some Republicans to weigh the benefits of appealing to Hispanic voters against the cost of alienating the conservative base.
The struggle has manifested itself most clearly among Republicans currently running for office. Gubernatorial candidates Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bob McDonnell of Virginia have found President Barack Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court a political topic best avoided.
In McDonnell's case, the Virginia Attorney General has not actually weighed in on the debate over Sotomayor's confirmation at all. "We have not been asked or put out a statement," said McDonnell spokesperson, Taylor Thornley. Asked if she could provide one, Thornley said she would "see if we can get something put together for you." Subsequent requests for that information went unreturned.
Perhaps non-engagement is better than saying anything at all. Christie found himself on the receiving end of a critical editorial for playing politics with the nomination, which he first criticized, then described as "historic."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 6.6 percent of Virginia's population is of Hispanic origin, corresponding to a population of roughly 513,000. In New Jersey the percentage is much higher. Nearly 16 percent of the state is of Hispanic origin, corresponding to a population of more than 1,380,500.