At RealClearPolitics Sean Trende analyzes the chances of the presumed leading contenders to be appointed to the Supreme Court:
All of the potential justices I cite below would likely be more conservative than Kennedy. It is almost pointless to write about their ideological orientations, as doing so would run something like: “Makes Clarence Thomas look moderate,” “very conservative,” “very, very conservative” and so forth.
Instead, I am simply going to rank them from the point of view of what they bring to the table for Trump and for judicial conservatives (liberals, of course, can read this in reverse order). Again, the main takeaway is that these prospective justices would all mark a shift to the right in the court’s jurisprudence, and will at the very least put the brakes on the few advances liberals were able to make under Kennedy.
I only have three things to add. First, don’t underestimate how much Trump likes a good fight. IMO he’s as likely to appoint someone because of the uproar it would create as to try to avoid controversy.
Second, while Mr. Trende’s point about the Court lacking an intellectual linchpin since Scalia’s death, I doubt that will figure in President Trump’s reckoning at all.
And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the eventual appointee isn’t in Mr. Trende’s list at all.