After the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Senate floor on almost a party-line split (except for Lindsey Graham), Barack Obama’s first pick for the Supreme Court was widely expected to win confirmation easily.  After all, Democrats control 60 seats, and Republicans have discarded the idea of a filibuster.  If Democrats all stick together, Obama will look like a mainstreamer on judicial philosophy and have a big win under his belt.

Turns out that the if was bigger than we thought:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Thursday he hasn’t made up his mind on whether he will vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

Baucus this summer has infuriated liberals on and off Capitol Hill by working to strike a deal with Republicans on healthcare reform. A “no” vote on Sotomayor would be adding fuel to the left’s fire at the Finance Committee chairman.

Baucus on Thursday twice told The Hill he is undecided on next week’s floor vote on Sotomayor. …

A Baucus “no” vote against President Barack Obama’s high-court nominee would attract national headlines. It would also create a politically awkward situation with the White House as it is trying to prod Baucus to produce a healthcare reform bill.

Awkward?  Yeah, just a bit.  If Obama can’t even convince his own caucus to give him blanket support for Sotomayor, it underscores just how off the mainstream she is — and that Obama occupies that same spot on the spectrum.

That won’t stop Sotomayor from taking her seat on the court, however.  Baucus is thus far the only Democrat to hint at opposition, while a handful of Republicans will vote in her favor.  The value even in the waffling is purely symbolic for Republicans, who can use it to hammer Obama in 2010, especially in Senate races.

I assume this is about health care and not Sotomayor.  Democrats have played hardball with dissenters in their ranks.  Baucus may be letting them know that he can play hardball as well.