And Republicans generally know this. After all, it's the whole point of the "October Surprise," as well as last minute smears the day before the election. It's all about putting something out there that is so outrageous or scandalous that the target doesn't have time to fight back. But the rest of the time, Republicans use the opposite strategy, which is to keep repeating the same attacks for such a long period of time that it stops being outrageous or scandalous.
And sure, there are times when this works; but only when their target flubs the defense and goes down without a proper fight. But in the Obama era, that looks to be happening less and less. Democrats are learning that Republican attacks wear no clothes and that their supposedly withering attacks hold no real power at all. They huff and they puff, but just end up winded and impotent.
And so all that grand work of laying down the groundwork against Sonia Sotomayor not only won't derail her, but is likely to have backfired. Particularly as the attacks on her were so early that it just exposed the fraudulent nature of the attacks and her attackers. They needed to keep the attacks at bay until they found something real to attack her with. And for god's sake, they needed to not cite her gender or race as an issue.
But perhaps they never thought they could properly derail her and were just hoping to scare the Whitehouse into picking a weaker candidate. But once again, Obama didn't blink and now he's in a much stronger position because they shot too early. Sotomayor is now inoculated against most of the basic smears against her, and unless some giant skeleton appears in her closet, it looks like the early Republican attacks only made her confirmation all the more likely.
And since Republicans have committed themselves to opposing her, it'll just make them look worse in the process. I'm not sure why anyone ever feared these fools, but it's quite obvious that their bark was far worse than their bite.