I’m lousy with predictions, especially when they involve presidents or Supreme Court justices, but here goes: I predict President Obama will hint widely that he plans to nominate Diane Wood (the main Protestant in the running), but actually nominate Elena Kagan.
Here’s the thinking: President Obama seems to shy away from surprise nominations, so I strongly suspect the choice will be one of the names we’ve been hearing—or someone who fills the airwaves soon. There’s been so much discussion of the fact there will not be any Protestants on the Court when Stevens steps down that the President risks getting hammered if he doesn’t pick a Protestant. This makes Diane Wood the obvious choice. If she were in fact nominated, the pick would be quite ironic, since her stridently pro-choice abortion views will outrage nearly all evangelical Protestants and many others as well—much more so than the non-Protestant front-runners.
I suspect President Obama wants to select Wood but I also suspect he’s leery of a big fight over abortion. He doesn’t need a fight over social issues at the moment. This is why I think he’ll hint that Wood will be the pick, then shift to Kagan when it becomes clear that many politically active Protestants would rather see Kagan than have a Protestant justice. This would give him cover on the Protestant justice issue, while assuring a solid, sufficiently liberal pick and a less ugly confirmation battle.
Truth be told, I think this would be a good outcome, which is always a dangerous starting point when you’re making predictions.