"I think many on the right feel in particular that Anthony Kennedy, while broadly on the conservative side, was not as consistent as he might have been, and that the nominee of Donald Trump will have the court be much more consistently five votes in the conservative direction", said John Fortier with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.
Mr Trump has chosen 9pm on Monday evening, a primetime TV slot, to make his announcement. He expressed renewed interest in Hardiman - the runner-up when Trump nominated Gorsuch, said two people with knowledge of his thinking who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Trump appears to have narrowed his search to a select group of U.S. appeals court judges, including top contenders Brett Kavanaugh of the District of Columbia Circuit, Raymond Kethledge of the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit and Amy Coney Barrett of the Chicago-based 7th Circuit. The White House confirmed the call but did not disclose what they discussed.
As Trump decides on a replacement for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, the White House team will naturally be considering what attributes to emphasize in that successor.
The senator has a few times threatened to withhold his vote on key Trump priorities citing ideological disagreements, most recently the nomination of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But Trump's final decision remained far from clear, and the president wants to keep the guessing game going. They see the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit judge as the most reliable choice because he's written hundreds of opinions after 12 years on the bench.
"President Trump has promised to replace Justice Kennedy with someone who would take away the constitutional right to have an abortion altogether", said Faiz Shakir, ACLU national political director.
"As you know there is now a vacancy on the Supreme Court".
There have also been lobbying efforts around other candidates.
Kethledge, 51, like Kavanaugh, also clerked for Kennedy.
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Kavanaugh, 53, who graduated from Yale University and law school, is the only Ivy Leaguer on the shortlist at this point, and Trump has made plain he likes to tout elite credentials.
"The court could use some perspectives that were forged in different kinds of regions of the country and different kinds of academic backgrounds", said former Michigan Sen.
Lee's brother Thomas, who is on the Utah Supreme Court, is also on the list of potential picks the White House released last fall.
Barrett - a longtime Notre Dame Law School professor who became a federal appeals judge last fall - excited social conservatives with her testimony when she was questioned about her Roman Catholic faith in her nomination hearings past year.
During her confirmation hearing for the 7th Circuit, Sen. And Democrats claim that Barrett - like the other picks - would favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that affirmed a woman's right to abortion, and would weaken President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law.
A favorite among many on the right, Lee has never been a judge and was a prominent Trump critic ahead of the 2016 election.
Kennedy said he was bracing for a tough confirmation battle as Democrats focus on the nominee's views of the high court's Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of only two Republican senators who supports abortion rights, told ABC's This Week she's looking for a nominee who would demonstrate a respect for precedent and that she sees Roe as settled law.
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