Not too long ago, conservatives viewed President Obama’s first Supreme Court nomination as a potential rallying point, a chance to deal a rare defeat to the popular Democratic President.

When Judge Sonia Sotomayor was nominated, conservatives saw their opening. But from the start, opposing Sotomayor was going to be a challenge. Being the first Latina and the first Hispanic to be nominated to the Supreme Court was a big deal; if conservatives went about opposing her the wrong way they could damage themselves, particularly among Hispanic voters.

All conservatives had to do was not focus on her race. All they had to do was focus on her record as a judge and find enough questionable rulings, statements, or speeches to use against her.

But conservatives just couldn’t help themselves. The first thing they brought up was Sotomayor’s ruling in the New Haven case, which they portrayed as her siding with minorities against whites. The second thing they brought up were Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” comments, which they took completely out of context in order to misrepresent her views on race.

From there, it all fell apart; the entirety of conservative opposition to Judge Sotomayor has come down to her race (which is not a good development for a party widely perceived to have problems with race).

Now the story has gotten away from the GOP. It’s not about Judge Sotomayor being unfit to serve. It’s not even about Judge Sotomayor, anymore. It’s about the GOP and race–more specifically, the GOP’s problems with race, a decidedly losing issue.

Ironically enough, the conservatives’ reaction to Sotomayor will probably prevent the GOP from being able to mount any serious opposition to Sotomayor. Since she’s likely to be confirmed anyway, they can’t vote against her lest history remember that the GOP sided with the Limbaughs and Gingriches of the world against the nation’s first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.

And this might also be the final nail in the coffin when it comes to Hispanic support for the GOP.  Republicans have been hemorrhaging Hispanic support for years; their ugly opposition to Judge Sotomayor might lose Republicans the Hispanic vote for a generation or more.

I hope it was worth it, Republicans.  Whatever you’re getting out of this, I hope it was worth it.