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Washington Post: Whitehouse One to Watch

As the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor kick off this morning, the Washington Post's political blog, "The Fix," names Rhode Island's Sheldon Whitehouse one of five senators to watch:

Sheldon Whitehouse: The Rhode Island Democrat is widely regarded by his colleagues as a rapidly rising star within the caucus. The Sotomayor confirmation hearings could well be his coming-out party as Whitehouse's résumé -- a former U.S. attorney, state attorney general and practicing attorney -- sets him up perfectly to stand out: Whitehouse, although only elected in 2006, is in the middle of pack in Democratic seniority -- meaning that there will still be a significant spotlight on him when his turn for questions comes around.

Here's the blog's take on the political importance of the hearings - not for the nominee, who is considered a virtual lock for the job, but for the questioners:

The confirmation hearings for judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court begin today at 10 a.m. and, although the drama has largely been drained from the question of whether she will be confirmed (barring some disaster she will be on the Court), there is still considerable drama in the proceedings.

Why?

Because every senator in the room -- and there will be 19 of them -- knows that cable news will provide gavel to gavel coverage of the proceedings, the nightly newscasts will lead their broadcasts with the questioning all week and, lest we forgot them, the ink stained wretches of the print world and blogosphere will be all over the hearings as well.

While all 19 members of the Judiciary Committee will be on stage, there are a few key players to keep an eye on as the week progresses: some as they set the tone of questioning and others as they try to take advantage of -- with vary degrees of success -- the spotlight the hearings offer.

The other four to watch: Al Franken, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Sessions and Arlen Specter.

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