From NBC's Kelly O'Donnell
Aides familiar with the preparations for a Supreme Court pick say one key strategy now beyond the pick itself is a political decision about when to announce the choice. The White House will confer closely with top senators to plan a strategy on the confirmation calendar. Democrats want enough time to get a nominee through before summer recess, as well as sufficient time to prepare the nominee's public roll-out and homework for the Capitol Hill courtesy calls and the hearings. Sources do expect the White House will not take the 25 days that elapsed before Sonia Sotomayor was announced.
Democrats with some knowledge of the president's relationships with the most talked-about potential names say advisers particularly liked Elena Kagan during last year's vetting. The reasons she was not selected last time are "not legitimate now" (because Sotomayor was in the mix) and "there was no comparison." The president could face disappointment from the left over Kagan because "progressives are not excited about Kagan."
Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit may face other hurdles in the selection process. One factor beyond the nominees' control is age. At nearly 60, Wood is ten years older than Kagan -- and for a lifetime appointment that could be a White House consideration. Strategists also point to Woods' record of rulings on abortion. That poses a political challenge in the Senate and among vocal interest groups. Some examples: Woods wrote a dissent on state bans on the abortion procedure labeled "partial birth" by opponents. Woods also ruled that abortion-rights advocates, Planned Parenthood, could sue anti-abortion demonstrators by using an anti-mob law. That was later overturned.
Age may also be one consideration with Merrick Garland, who is 57. Garland has some support among Republicans and that could be helpful to achieve a smoother path to confirmation. Sources say the president does not know Garland as well as the others.
Look for a nominee's personal storyline to part of the public rollout strategy. Sources close to the process say it is important to introduce the choice to the country, interest groups, and the Senate with a story that is memorable. Sotomayor had that with her background and family.
Democrats say they are confident an Obama nominee will be confirmed, but it may be a matter of degree over how tough and how messy it will be.