With Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination hearings set to begin Monday, the overwhelming storyline is just how little people actually know or care about the appointment.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released last week showed that 57 percent of Americans either had no idea who Kagan was or weren't sure what to think about her nomination. That was actually up four percentage points from the survey taken one month prior.
In other words: as time has gone on, fewer people are aware of this potential lifetime appointment to the Court.
How could this be? A host of other political stories have simply sapped the oxygen out of the room. According to the Pew Research Center, the economy, the oil spill in the gulf, the World Cup, even the issue of obesity dominated social media (twitter, blogs, etc...) during mid-June. The mainstream press, likewise, has spent its time focused almost squarely on the oil spill and the economy, with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict briefly making an entree during the week after IDF forces boarded and attacked a flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists.
Kagan, of course, has contributed to the under-the-radar nature of her candidacy -- her resume offering relatively few if any deeply controversial views or compelling storylines. Republicans on the Hill have been grappling for weeks to find a sure-fire line of attack that could trip up the confirmation, shifting between charges that she's too political, too inexperienced, too anti-gun, or anti-military. None of these charges have stuck so far, as evidence by the fact that a clear majority of the population either doesn't know or care. And it stands to reason that they won't resonate when re-aired during their hearings.
One thing to watch as the process goes forward is the length to which conservative, non-government groups will go when attacking Kagan. So far, no television ads have aired in opposition to her nominatin. That should change in the days -- and perhaps weeks -- ahead. But how much money they invest in their campaign will give an early indication into how confident the GOP is that she can be filibustered.
UPDATE: Howard Mortman, a spokesperson for CSPAN, sends over results of a poll the station did recently that truly hammer home the point that no one seems to care about Kagan. As he writes:
Only 19% correctly named Ms. Kagan as the nominee, while 43% were able to correctly name Ms. Sotomayor in a July 2009 C-SPAN poll. Also while voters give Senators good or ok marks (64%) for asking questions on how nominees might rule or reason, three in five (59%) voters also say Senate confirmation hearings ultimately provide only fair or poor insights on the qualifications of the nominee.