OVER BEFORE IT STARTS…. President Obama nominated Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) this afternoon to head the Department of Health and Human Services, but political observers have known for a while this was likely. Indeed, several conservative groups and high-profile activists have reportedly been gearing up to fight Sebelius’ nomination.

Jane Hamsher noted two weeks ago that there are “concerns” in the White House that Sebelius may prompt “a backlash” among abortion-rights opponents. The Washington Post reported last week:

[C]onservative religious activists have already launched a preemptive campaign against [Sebelius]…. The Kansas Democrat and Roman Catholic is “the most rabidly pro-abortion governor” in the country, according to the effort being waged by Operation Rescue through its Web site, which calls her and President Obama “birds of a feather.” The group is encouraging antiabortion activists to write Congress to oppose her.

The New York Times added over the weekend:

After her possible nomination became public, the Catholic League called her an “enemy of the unborn” and promised to fight confirmation. “We have the specter of another pro-abortion Catholic stiffing the Catholic Church,” Bill Donohue, the league president, said in a statement. “This is setting up a confrontation that pro-life Catholics will not walk away from.”

Donohue doesn’t have to “walk away,” but by all appearances, the fight is already over.

For example, Operation Rescue, a hardcore pro-life group, thought they could pick up Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) as an opponent of Sebelius’ nomination. Almost immediately after her nomination was announced, however, Brownback issued a statement, expressing his enthusiastic support for the Kansas governor.

What’s more, when the president introduced Sebelius today, they were joined on the stage by, among others, prominent Kansas Republicans Sen. Pat Roberts and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. Around the same time, Sebelius’ nomination was endorsed by the American Medical Association and the AFL-CIO.

Now, I suppose it’s possible there’s something damaging in Sebelius’ background that could imperil her nomination. It’s exceedingly unlikely — she was already vetted for the Obama ticket last summer — but crazy things happen.

That said, if Bill Donohue, Operation Rescue, and other culture warriors think they can derail this nomination because Sebelius is an ardent supporter of reproductive rights, they’re likely to be very disappointed.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.