Antonin Scalia had been dead for all of a few hours when the political fight over his still-warm U.S. Supreme Court seat began. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell essentially declared that he'd spend the next year blocking any possibility of a replacement, in hopes that a new Republican president would do the choosing in 2017.
In the face of McConnell's roadblock, President Barack Obama needs to find that rare nominee who combines legal acumen, moderate politics, and a near-total lack of baggage.
This leads us to Minnesota DFLer Amy Klobuchar. The second-term senator, overwhelmingly popular in her own state, is one of the few people not wholly hated on the other side of the aisle in Washington, D.C.. She's also a long-serving member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which holds the initial hearings to review a prospective justice.
Before running for the Senate, Klobuchar served two terms as Hennepin County Attorney.
Klobuchar has already been named to a couple of first-blush short lists for possible nominees. CNN says Klobuchar would be an "unusual pick," but has the "political connections" that might get her through a nomination fight. Vox named Klobuchar one of its "seven strongest candidates," saying, "There's no one on the Democratic side in the Senate better suited for the court than Minnesota's senior senator."
Perhaps the most meaningful endorsement came in Roll Call, where Klobuchar's was the first name mentioned by Norman Ornstein, a scholar with the influential conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute.
New Yorker court-watcher Jeff Toobin says conventional wisdom points to Sri Srinavasan, an appeals court judge with a business-friendly streak Republicans would like. But Toobin has also cited Klobuchar in the past, saying she's the most likely "possibility" if Obama chooses to appoint a non-judge to the bench.
That doesn't happen often. The last person named to the court without any prior experience with a gavel was William Rehnquist, in 1972, who was an Assistant U.S. Attorney General before Richard Nixon picked him.
California Gov. Earl Warren was the last court nominee to go directly from politics to the high court. The year was 1953.
Klobuchar's name almost always bubbles to the top when a vacancy comes up. She tends to downplay the possibility with some homespun modesty. Back in 2010, Klobuchar shot down the idea of replacing outgoing Justice John Paul Stevens in an interview with The Hill, saying, "I love my job now — who wouldn't?"
Of course, that "now" was then, when Democrats held a majority of both houses and were trying to pass "Obamacare." Six years of gridlock later, with a seemingly permanent right-wing grip on the House, and maybe the thought of retreating to quiet judge's chambers with a cup of coffee and some dusty books doesn't sound so bad.