WAR ON EMPATHY COMING UP SHORT…. It was never an especially good idea. Conservatives decided that President Obama looking for a Supreme Court justice with, among other qualities, “empathy,” was so outrageous, it would serve as the basis for weeks of “controversy.”

There were three persistent problems with the strategy. First, Republicans have been confused about what “empathy” really means in this context. Second, plenty of GOP officials have endorsed the notion of empathetic judges in the past.

And third, Americans generally just aren’t afraid of the word. A new, national Research 2000 poll for Daily Kos asked:

“Do you think empathy is an important characteristic for a Supreme Court Justice to possess or not?”

A 52% majority said it is an important characteristic, only 29% disagreed. Probably not the results the Republican National Committee was hoping for.

The same poll found that only 8% of Americans agree with right-wing charges that Sotomayor is a “racist,” and majorities had a favorable opinion of the Supreme Court nominee and believe she’s qualified for the high court.

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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.