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Most of the focus on who President Trump will pick to replace retiring SCOTUS Justice Anthony Kennedy has been on Brett Cavanaugh and Amy Coney-Barrett. That’s understandable because Cavanaugh and Barrett spice up the conversation, Barrett for her religious beliefs, Cavanaugh because he’s a Bush appointee. What if they weren’t the frontrunners, though?

What if Thomas Hardiman and Raymond Kethledge were the actual frontrunners? According to this NYTimes article, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “told President Trump this past week that Judges Raymond M. Kethledge and Thomas M. Hardiman presented the fewest obvious obstacles to being confirmed to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court, according to Republican officials briefed on the conversation.”

With a 50-49 majority, Sen. McConnell can’t afford a single defection. The thinking is that Any Coney-Barrett is a lightning rod candidate that might invite defections by Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. In this interview, Ben Shapiro praised Kethledge’s opinions, stating that they’re quite strong. At one point, he said they’re more of a punch-you-in-the-mouth type of writing rather than a politically conciliatory writing.

At this point, I’m betting on the pick being either Hardiman, who was runner-up to Gorsuch last time, or Kethledge because he writes such strong opinions. Within 16 hours, we’ll know who President Trump picked. Until then, though, the speculation game will intensify.

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