In picking a successor to Justice Anthony Kennedy, President Trump has many fine potential nominees from among whom to choose. The top contenders seem to be Amy Coney Barrett, Thomas Hardiman, Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge and Amul Thapar, all of whom are well-respected conservative judges.
In my view, Trump should pick Barrett.
At 46, she is the youngest of the five top choices, which is a mark in her favor given that the nominee will have life tenure and Trump will want one who will leave a lasting mark on the law.
Her educational history — she went to Rhodes College and Notre Dame Law School — would add a little welcome diversity to a Supreme Court full of Yale and Harvard alumni. It’s not the most important consideration, but a little less insularity would be a good thing.
Barrett has also recently been through Senate confirmation to a federal appeals court. She won the support of all the Republicans and three Democrats (Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Joe Manchin of West Virginia).
Some of those senators might rationalize a vote against her for the Supreme Court on the ground that her decisions on the appeals court have disappointed them, or that the high court has more power than the one they voted to put her on. But they will be hard-pressed to argue that she is an extremist given their own recent support.