The PICK of the Litter

President Trump has informed us he has interviewed eight Supreme Court candidates this week as he decides on a nominee to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

The president has said his pick will officially be unveiled on Monday, but White House spokesman Hogan Gidley suggested this week that Trump’s pick could become news before then.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), 47, who once clerked for Justice Samuel Alito, is among those who spoke with the president about the job this week, although he’s probably a longshot. So, too, is 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amul Thapar, who would be the first Indian-American appointed to the high court.

Here’s a quick rundown of three candidates who appear to be at the top of the list as the president looks for what he describes as “a home run” nominee:

Brett Kavanaugh, 53, District of Columbia Court of Appeals judge: The Washington Post’s reporting casts Kavanaugh, the staff secretary for former President George W. Bush, as a frontrunner. Some conservatives would be disappointed by this pick, pointing to his past ObamaCare-related decisions. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has reportedly called the White House to voice his concerns about Kavanaugh (a meaningful development considering Republicans have only a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate).

Still, the young former George W. Bush administration official would be viewed as a solid pick by many Republicans.

“Judge Kavanaugh’s record shows him to be a jurist who adheres to his principles and can influence his future colleagues on the bench. He is the most qualified candidate by all the criteria that matter. On top of that, he is a good and decent man of integrity. He would be a worthy Supreme Court justice.” — conservative author J.D. Vance, The Wall Street Journal.

Matt Schlapp: With Kavanaugh, America will have a bold, brilliant justice.

Amy Coney Barrett, 46, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge: Conservatives are rallying behind Barrett, a Roman Catholic and a mother to seven children.

Ramesh Ponnuru: Trump should replace Kennedy with Barrett on the Supreme Court.

Steve Cortes: Trump should nominate Barrett.

Barrett is the youngest in contention and would likely meet the stiffest opposition from Democrats in the Senate. We already saw this play out at her appellate court confirmation fight last year. Democrats pressed Barrett on her faith and her membership in a Christian group, “People of Praise.” Republicans objected to how Democrats questioned Barrett, accusing them of anti-Catholic bigotry and of applying a religious test.

Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — red state Democrats up for reelection in 2018 — voted to confirm Barrett. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) — both also up for reelection in states Trump won in 2016 — did not vote for her (McCaskill didn’t vote and Heitkamp voted against). Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016, will be pressed to explain why he voted in favor of Barrett. Kaine is also up for reelection this year.

“For conservatives, [she] would be exhilarating, but Barrett’s obvious appeal is a double-edged sword. The very things that make her such a compelling pick (her judicial philosophy and qualifications, as well as the chance to dare Democrats to try to take down a highly-qualified female nominee) also make her a threat to a Democratic Party that is increasingly wedded to identity politics.” — conservative writer Matt K. Lewis, the Daily Beast.

Raymond Kethledge, 51, 6th Circuit Court of Appeals judge: A Bush appointee who clerked for Kennedy, you can bet the president would love to tout this nomination on campaign swings through Kethledge’s home state of Michigan, where Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is up for reelection.

Don’t make the easy ones hard, Mr. President. Pick a staunch originalist from the heartland that elected you. Nominate Raymond Kethledge.” — conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt, The Washington Post.

The Hill: “Stare decisis,” the buzzword at the center of the Supreme Court fight.

Special Thanks to the Hill on this story

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