I think Matt makes a great point here:
I think if you look at election results over time, it's clear that a large number of non-white or non-Anglo Americans seem to have the sense that the Republican Party and the conservative movement don't have their best interests at heart. And when people see conservatives not just saying "well, I'm a conservative and Sotomayor isn't, so I'm not happy about the choice" but engaging in bizarre tirades against the "unnatural" pronunciation of her name and the evils of Puerto Rican cuisine while suggesting that the kind of resume that was suitable for Samuel Alito doesn't cut the mustard for Sonia Sotomayor, well then I think that tends to reinforce the sense that conservatives are very interested in white people's problems and not so interested in anyone else.
One problem with the GOP is that when you build your brand on Willie Horton, "white hands" and the Minutemen, you end up with a party that, well, believes in those things. People keep saying that the GOP is playing into Obama's hands. I've said similar. But as I think about this, that takes chess-match thinking to a rather silly extreme.
More likely, when you have a party, in which people feel comfortable coming to rallies and saying on camera that they won't vote for a black guy, then that party will have people asserting the right to mispronounce Sotomayor's name. That party will have people arguing that Sotomayer's food choices are evil. It's highly unlikely that that party will have some sort of sophisticated tolerence game at the ready. They are who they are.
That said, it's interesting to note the difference in tone between GOP figures with something at stake (people who have to win elections) and those who have nothing at stake. Newt has a megaphone, but he has no real responsibility. He can yell whatever he wants. He's got books to hustle, dog--not Senators to elect.
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