LOOKING OUTSIDE THE REPUBLICAN COALITION…. It’s getting ugly out there. There’s no shortage of angry conservative Republicans doing their best to smear Sonia Sotomayor (Gingrich, Limbaugh, Rove, Tancredo, Barnes, Liddy), and there’s no shortage of angry conservative Republicans who want the first group to please shut up (Cornyn, Steele, Hatch, Sessions, Noonan).

The LAT had a pretty good piece this morning on the divisions between the two like-minded camps, which clearly aren’t on the same page.

“Whether or not Barack Obama gets his nominee is not going to determine the future of our party,” said Terry Holt, an advisor to George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign. “He’s a popular president with the votes to confirm his nominee. That’s not our best fight or our worst problem to deal with.”

Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster, said: “Any kind of ad hominem attacks are not helpful to the party’s reputation, certainly not in attracting independents, which is our challenge at the moment.”

But some conservative activists are urging Senate Republicans to mount a vigorous opposition to Sotomayor’s nomination in order to fire up the party’s demoralized base. Waging an aggressive fight might also send a warning shot to Obama about court battles to come and highlight the differing legal philosophies of the two parties.

“It will help in uniting the Republican coalition,” said Curt Levey, head of the conservative Committee for Justice.

At first blush, that’s not crazy. Chances are, both Republican factions know full well that Sotomayor will be confirmed, and there’s not much they can do about it, other than craft a game plan to get the most benefit out of defeat. They’re going to lose, but they want to lose in a way that helps the GOP and conservatives going forward. Fine.

But the idea that unhinged attacks will “help in uniting the Republican coalition” doesn’t make sense. For one thing, it’s clearly not “uniting” anyone — the right spent nearly as much time yesterday dealing with each other’s smears as they did addressing the nominee. For another, the Republican coalition is shrinking, and by launching racially-charged, misogynistic attacks against a clearly qualified Supreme Court nominee, the Gingrich-led faction is only driving away everyone else, while insulting the nation’s fastest growing demographic.

I’d just add that the right had time to come up with a sound strategy here. They knew the nomination was coming, and they know that Sotomayor was a likely frontrunner. Did it not occur to them to figure out a sensible plan in advance? Or is the offensive fiasco we’ve seen this week their idea of a sensible plan?

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.