Fighting Sotomayor's nomination presents conservatives with a tricky calculation. Even if they score points on her jurisprudence, the struggling Republican Party can ill afford to alienate Hispanics and women more than it already has. In the last election, Obama won both groups by wide margins.
At age 54, she would be the second-youngest member of the court, after Chief Justice John Roberts, thus potentially setting up decades of clashes between what are expected to be competing views of the Constitution on a variety of issues.
Sotomayor has served on the federal bench for 16 years, as a US district court judge in New York City from 1992 to 1998 and as a judge on the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York from 1998 to present.
Her record of judicial decisions is long and deep. It includes a 1995 ruling as a federal judge in the Major League Baseball strike case, and a decision as a member of a three-judge appeals-court panel that upheld a ruling throwing out a firefighter promotion test in New Haven, Conn., because no African-American candidates received a high enough score to qualify for promotion.
With nearly two months before expected confirmation hearings in the Senate, Sotomayor's record will endure microscopic scrutiny.
The examination will focus on her intellect, her ideology, and her temperament. Given her long service in the federal judiciary, the examination should offer by the time of the hearings a clearer picture of her potential approach to the law as a justice than any of the current sitting justices.
Sotomayor's personal story is a quintessentially American success story. Born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents, she was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8. Her father died when she was 9, and she and her brother were raised by their mother, a nurse, in a housing project near Yankee Stadium.