(Bloomberg) -- Amy Coney Barrett swiftly emerged as an early front-runner to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court among allies of President Donald Trump, who are preparing to press forward with a hotly contested nomination battle on the eve of an election.
Coney Barrett, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge appointed by Trump, is among a list of potential high court nominees Trump updated earlier this month, Republican officials familiar with the matter say. It’s too early to tell what will happen, they added. She was among the finalists Trump considered before selecting Brett Kavanaugh for the court in 2018.
“If the president is of a mind to replace Justice Ginsburg with a woman, then somebody who would be at or near the top of the list would be Judge Amy Coney Barrett,” said John Malcolm, a legal expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation whose list of possible Supreme Court justices was largely adopted by then-candidate Trump in 2016.
“She’s certainly a favorite among social conservatives and also had expressed a great deal of skepticism about the administrative state,” he added.
Other conservative judicial activists seemed reluctant to weigh in publicly about possible replacements for Ginsburg just hours after her death. Leonard Leo, who is widely credited with helping Trump push through his judicial nominations, said in a statement that Ginsburg “selflessly dedicated much of her professional life to serving the country.”
“She, her family and many who knew her well are in my thoughts and prayers,” Leo said.
Senate Battle Ahead
Whomever Trump puts forward, a contentious Senate battle is all but certain, with an election weeks away and fresh memories among Democrats over how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016.
Coney Barrett was confirmed as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in October 2017. She is a member of the faculty at the University of Notre Dame’s law school.
Trump once confided that he planned to nominate her to replace Bader Ginsburg, according to Axios. “I’m saving her for Ginsburg,” Trump told confidants, Axios reported in March 2019.
A religious Roman Catholic with seven children, Barrett weathered a tough confirmation process after Trump appointed her to the Seventh Circuit in 2017. “She showed great grace under fire when her bona fides were challenged,” Malcolm said.
Other favorites for Trump’s nomination would include Amul Thapar and Raymond Kethledge on the Sixth Circuit, as well as Thomas Hardiman on the Third Circuit, Malcolm said.
Barrett and Thapar are likely Trump’s top two choices, one former Republican official said. The person asked not to be identified discussing Trump’s deliberations.
The president didn’t respond when a reporter asked whether he would fill the sudden high court vacancy following a campaign rally in Minnesota on Friday.
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