Conservatives reacted this week to the Trump administration's announcement that three names are on the shortlist to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia's seat. The nominee is supposed to be revealed on Thursday, Feb. 2.
The candidates currently in the running are federal appellate court judges, ranging in age from 49-54. All notably conservative, on the shortlist are Eleventh Circuit Appeals Court Justice William Pryor of Alabama; Tenth Circuit Appeals Court Justice Neil Gorsuch of Colorado; and Third Circuit Appeals Court Justice Thomas Hardiman who was born in Massachusetts and now resides in Pennsylvania.
Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director for the American Center for Law and Justice, told The Christian Post in a Thursday phone interview that he always cautions people until he sees the nominee walk out with the president and their name is announced.
"You don't want to get overconfident that it is going to be even one of [the men on the shortlist]. And I think that they will all face — and I am seeing it in the evangelical world — there's unique opposition to different ones ... but overall these are not the kind of picks you would have gotten from Hillary Clinton," Sekulow said.
Filling this seat is about maintaining the right-leaning balance present when Scalia was there, he added.
Some believe that Trump's choice, particularly if he chooses to announce it at the National Prayer Breakfast, will be a signal to evangelical Christians and other social conservatives who supported Trump overwhelmingly in the 2016 election that he is truly their friend.
On a Thursday edition of Washington Journal on C-SPAN, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said that it was significant that for the first time ever a Republican nominee said up front during the campaign that he would nominate pro-life justices. Also significant was his plainspoken advocacy for the unborn in the third presidential debate in Las Vegas.
Trump's statements there, he said, "closed the deal with social conservatives across the country," many of whom regarded Trump's pro-life credentials as dubious and his past unsavory.
"All three [potential nominees] have some very positive aspects," Perkins said, highlighting their good records on the right-to-life and religious liberty issues. He further praised the new President's consistency during his first week in office.
But not every evangelical leader is expressing optimism even with the prospect of a new Supreme Court justice in the mold of Scalia.
In a Saturday New York Times article titled "Why I Cannot Fall In Line Behind Trump," Peter Wehner, senior fellow at The Ethics and Public Policy Center and an ardent #neverTrump conservative, acknowledged that "the nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court is certain to be more of an originalist than a Clinton appointment would be."
The three potential nominees on the shortlist were on Trump's longer list of 21 judges that he presented before the election.
However, "my chief worries about Mr. Trump were never strictly ideological; they had to do with temperament and character," Wehner added, concluding that Trump is a "man with illiberal tendencies, a volatile personality and no internal checks ... This isn't going to end well."