Trump has nominated three judges to the Supreme Court while in office. All three have strong conservative records as appeals court judges and have evidenced their propensity for conservative ideology over the years. These were not surprising nominees by any stretch but there were a bevy of potential nominees to satisfy these criteria as Trump listed at least 20 judges as potential nominees at the outset of each nomination.
That said I’m going to take this opportunity to say that understanding a bit about Trump’s nomination strategy goes a long way to understanding who he will select to the Supreme Court. Applying various methods across three articles I predicted each pick well in advance of the nominations; in fact, in increasing time lengths from the nominations as well. Although Gorsuch was a front runner for the nomination it was not clear that he was going to be the nominee to Trump’s first Supreme Court seat until the last minute. The same can be said for Kavanaugh. On the other hand, the public was well aware of the Coney Barrett nomination at least a day prior to the most recent nomination.
Even with the questions surrounding the certainty of the first two nominations, I wrote that Gorsuch was the likely nominee on November 14, 2016. He was nominated on January 31, 2017 or 79 days later. I then wrote that Kavanaugh was the likely nominee for the second vacancy on December 7, 2017. He was nominated on July 9, 2018 or 215 days later. Following through with this trend of increasing time between prediction and nomination I wrote that if Ginsburg did not survive through Trump’s presidency, that I thought Trump would fill her seat with Coney Barrett on January 17, 2019. Coney Barrett was nominated to the Court today, September 26, 2020 or 619 days after this prediction.
The total time between predictions and nominations for the three was 913 days or exactly 2.5 years (or more than half of the time Trump has been in office). There is no surefire way to gauge that any such predictions will be accurate but this is at least a modicum of evidence that empirical methods can be helpful predictors in such situations, especially when machinations and decision making play out in somewhat consistent fashions.
On Twitter: @AdamSFeldman