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WBFO brings you NPR's live coverage of the Republican National Convention tonight and tomorrow night from 9pm-11pm.

Obama's Chance To Fill Supreme Court Slot

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Some of the people who will have a voice in hiring the next Supreme Court justice are voicing their opinions. The man who makes the nomination, says he wants a justice in touch with ordinary Americans.

President BARACK OBAMA: …whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.

INSKEEP: Which is not a description that pleases Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who spoke on ABC's This Week.

Senator ORRIN HATCH (Republican, Utah): If he's saying - he wants to pick people who will take sides, he's also said that the judge has to be a person of empathy, what does that mean? Usually that's a code word for an activist judge.

INSKEEP: Hatch is an influential voice in confirming justices as is Democrat Patrick Leahy, who says he would like to see another woman or minority on the bench. Now Supreme Court confirmations have a way of defining the differences between parties.

And we are going to talk about that with NPR's Cokie Roberts, who has analysis on this Monday morning. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning Steve, welcome back.

INSKEEP: Thank you, glad to be back. President Obama, of course, hasn't given out a name, but that hasn't stopped a lot of talk.

ROBERTS: No, of course not. And you just heard Orrin Hatch. That's going to be the line, you know, the president is trying to get an activist judge, somebody who is not just a legal scholar. And those are - those are code words too, of course, because that is the way, you know Supreme Court debates go. Of course Patrick Leahy, who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, countered that the Court is activist now, but from his perspective, activist in the wrong direction.

You're already seeing some outside groups gearing up against some of the names that have been mentioned, even before a nomination comes forward. So there's going to be a big fight here. But a lot of the stuffing has been knocked out of the Republicans in recent weeks, and I am curious to see how big a fight they actually wage on this nomination.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk a little bit more about Republicans trying to do define themselves, because they had a moment to think about what their party stands for over the weekend. Former congressman Jack Kemp died over the weekend, who was a very particular type of Republican.

ROBERTS: Indeed he was, and it is a real loss. He was someone who strongly believed in reaching out for the party. He used to joke that as a professional football player, that he had taken showers with people most Republicans never met. And he - he very much believed that the party could not survive without reaching out to minorities and women, and of course that was something that the Republicans were trying to do for a while.

But the last election really showed terrible problems along those lines, when you had, by three-to-one, Hispanics voting for the Democrats; and of course, the African-Americans going overwhelmingly Democratic; and that women's vote still is very strongly Democratic, at least in the last elections. So Republicans are really looking around to see where their voters might be.

INSKEEP: Well you know, Republicans got a lot of strength over the years, from so called social issues. Even if they weren't in the majority on something like abortion, they would peel away very key voter groups with issues like that. Can that still be the case for them?

ROBERTS: Well, it's very interesting. An ABC poll that came out last week - on all of those issues, Republicans are - the voters just aren't where the Republican authority has recently been. More people, for instance, now, support gay marriage, than oppose it. And that includes, by the way, 30 percent of conservatives. Almost two-to-one - by almost two-to-one, they support amnesty for illegal immigrants. The only issue that you could really point to as having a conservative majority, is the opposition to gun control. But Democrats have been trying to protect themselves on that front by not really talking about gun control much anymore.

INSKEEP: Cokie thanks very much. That's NPR's Cokie Roberts, joins us every Monday morning. She's also the author of "We Are Our Mother's Daughters." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Cokie Roberts
Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.