Jake Tapper reports: “President Obama has a list of less than 10 possible nominees — Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Judge Diane Wood, and Judge Merrick Garland are on the list, sources say — to review.”
Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh Circuit is the rockstar of the liberal bench; see Jeffrey Rosen’s endorsement of her in The New Republic last year to get an idea of how much liberals like her. But Wood is 59, which by the standards of recent nominations is a little on the old side (presidents have made a habit lately of nominating younger jurists, the better to shape the Court for decades to come). Plus, she has a record that could stir up controversy in an election year.
DC Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland is often cited by conservatives as the best nominee one could hope for from Obama. It seems unlikely, though, that Obama would resort to a nominee as moderate as Garland just yet. The Democrats still have 59 seats in the Senate, after all, at least for the moment.
That leaves Elena Kagan. She’s young (she’ll be 50 later this month), she’s well-respected, and as a Solicitor General, not a judge, she doesn’t have much of a paper trail to stir up controversy. Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog has written that given all this she “deserves the title ‘prohibitive front runner.'” (That link may not work — SCOTUSblog has been slammed with traffic since the Stevens announcement and has been down a lot today.)
There are some wildcard options I haven’t mentioned, but if you’re betting, bet on a Kagan nomination.