Even his closest friends say Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Jr. is a shyer, blander version of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. — and Roberts himself was described as shy and bland when he was nominated to the high court.

Be that as it may, Alito’s Senate confirmation hearings, which begin this week, will be anything but bland or dull. After a long holiday truce, the battle over Alito’s nomination suddenly flared again last week, with dueling D.C. press conferences, partisan advertisements, and e-mail campaigns creating the illusion, if not the real prospect, that Alito is in for a far tougher time than Roberts. Groups ranging from the Hip Hop Caucus to the National Italian American Foundation weighed in, suggesting that at the eleventh hour, the Alito nomination was finally generating strong interest.