President-elect Donald Trump can point to any number of factors that led to his election to be the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Other than the desire for change (which was a huge factor) a leading reason was the vacancy on the Supreme Court left when Justice Antonin Scalia suddenly passed away.
For many moderate to lean conservative voters who may have otherwise voted for Clinton, the prospect of the liberals taking over the court was too much to bear.
The big question is, who will Trump pick? In an unconventional move (in a very unconventional election) Trump released a list of his possible picks before the election. Chances are he will likely pick from that list. It’s become a D.C. parlor game to try to guess who he will pick.
Even though he was not on the list, I would argue Trump should consider Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz clerked at the Supreme Court, was the Solicitor General for Texas, and obviously, ran for President. The calculation for Trump would be like the move President Obama made in appointing Jon Huntsman Jr. as Ambassador to China – neutralize potential opposition. Obama believed that Huntsman would be a formidable opponent in his re-election efforts. As it turned out, Huntsman took the job, only to resign and return to the U.S. and mount a campaign. Obama’s concerns about Huntsman may have been accurate in a General Election, but he hadn’t thought through how difficult it would be for Huntsman to get through the primary.
If Trump were to pick Cruz for the Supreme Court, it would be (in part) to prevent Cruz from mounting a primary challenge in 2020. It would also be a pretty good move because Cruz is a conservative and he is young – he could be on the bench for 30 or 40 years.
Another reason to pick Cruz would be that he is so unpopular with both Republican and Democrat Senators that he may get Senate approval by acclamation! Anyone else is certain to face a brutal confirmation process as Democrats take their frustrations of losing the White House out on Trump’s nominee.
Either way, it’s going to be a fascinating process to watch.