Hardiman is one of the two Scotus front-runners … or he isn’t

Politico reports:

President Donald Trump has narrowed his first Supreme Court nomination to three finalists, with 10th Circuit judge Neil Gorsuch and 3rd Circuit judge Thomas Hardiman emerging as front-runners while 11th Circuit Judge Bill Pryor remains in the running but fading, according to people familiar with the search process.

A Federalist Society leader approves:

“Under our Constitution, the power rests with the people, and that was at the core of Justice Scalia’s legacy, and you heard from President Trump’s inauguration that is the core of Trump’s agenda, and that’s very much the core of what Neil Gorsuch’s record is as a jurist,” Leo said. “He’s an excellent writer. He’s got sharp analytical ability, strong intellect and he’s got a lot of strength and courage. Those are things that the president very much wants in a nominee.”

“Hardiman,” Leo added, “shares many of the same qualities.”

Leo went on to say that Hardiman is “an extraordinarily talented and smart jurist” who has “a very direct and understandable writing style.”

Then there’s this:

As Gorsuch’s fortunes have risen, Pryor’s have dimmed. A 2006 George W. Bush appointee, Pryor is currently the subject of raging debate on an off-the-record group email list that includes many in the conservative legal and political communities, including many Republican Senate staffers, thanks to his decision to join the majority in Glenn v. Brumby, a 2011 opinion that protected transgender people from workplace discrimination.

“I think everybody on this list probably has something I’m not going to agree with. I think that decision with Pryor probably would be the one that would fall into that category,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative legal organization.

John Malcolm, who oversees a legal center inside the Heritage Foundation, acknowledged that “Bill Pryor has been getting attacked from the right. Which is strange to me.”

Strange? Try bananarama.

Meanwhile, Adam Liptak of New York Times is reporting that Trump’s “2 Supreme Court Choices” don’t include Hardiman, naming Gorsuch and Pryor “The two leading contenders.” But then later in the story, which doesn’t even mention Hardiman:

The two were described as among the leading contenders by an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House planning.

Fun fact: a photo accompanying the NYT story shows Judge Gorsuch taking an oath, and the judge in the background of the photo is the wonderful Tenth Circuit judge I clerked for, David M. Ebel.

So either he is, or he isn’t.

UPDATE: There’s a heck of a barroom brawl going on among leading conservatives over whether Gorsuch is conservative enough. Here’s one side, Ed Whelan on National Review, with links to his adversary.

UPDATE 2: The New York Times story has been updated and now refers to three leading contenders including Hardiman, but still asserts that Gorsuch and Pryor “appear to be the most likely choices” contrary to what many other outlets are reporting about Pryor’s dimming prospects.

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