That's the verdict from a long and persuasive post by SCOTUSblog's Tom Goldstein, who predicts that President Barack Obama's next Supreme Court pick will be Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Here's a snippet:
The President will want a highly qualified nominee, obviously. Beyond that, the calculation for the White House will be almost entirely political. Rahm Emanuel will have overriding control – if not minute-by-minute involvement – just as he did with Justice Sotomayor. And as with that previous confirmation, the calculus will be one of the political costs and benefits of the highly qualified candidates at the political moment in time.
Unfortunately for progressives who want the Administration to invest its political capital in a nomination, this summer is likely to be a profoundly difficult time in political terms. It is hard to overstate the Administration's view of the significance of the loss of the sixtieth Democratic Senate seat. The point isn't actually that there is a realistic chance that a Supreme Court nominee would be filibustered: there are several liberal candidates whom conservative Democrats and the Republican Senators from Maine might or might not ultimately support, but they would not filibuster. Supreme Court nominees require just fifty votes for confirmation, and with a committed effort, the Administration could get a relatively wide range of candidates through….
Nothing I have written above fails to scream – not merely suggest, but scream – Elena Kagan, who deserves the title "prohibitive front runner." Super-smart and genuinely knowledgeable. Solicitor General. Formerly the tremendously successful Dean of Harvard Law School. Personally has the greatest respect of the President, in part from their shared ties to both Chicago and Harvard. Deep relationships in the Administration, particularly among those who served under Clinton. Well-known conservatives lined up around the block to support her in emphatic terms. Young! Female! Has an exceptional ability to sound extremely articulate and thoughtful without saying anything that could cause offense. No material track record on anything.
Read the whole thing here.