Of the four choices, Hardiman is the one that would least “own the libs.”

And if Trump’s not going to seize the opportunity to own the libs on the biggest possible stage, why was he elected?

But wait. Maybe there’s less to this than meets the eye.

President Donald Trump has settled on a nominee for Supreme Court hours before a scheduled announcement, as some advocates prepared for the rollout of Judge Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania.

Allies of Judge Hardiman said they had been told to be ready to start touting the one-time taxi driver’s blue-collar roots, in hopes this would resonate with Mr. Trump’s supporters. They also said they’d been told the judge was in Washington, D.C., for a conference.

It’s Hardiman! Or … have allies of all four shortlisters been told the same thing, to “be ready” just in case their guy/gal is the pick? The Journal wasn’t sure about the other three camps, but this Erick Erickson tweet suggests that it’s not just Team Hardiman that’s been told to prepare:

Don’t forget that Hardiman was the runner-up last year and was even rumored to be traveling to Washington the day of the announcement. Trump has used him before as a decoy for the nominee, a cheap thing to do to a respected federal judge if he’s not actually the pick.

The one candidate who seems to have been conclusively ruled out is Kethledge:

I heard that myself a few hours ago from a friend. Presumably the grumbling from populists about Kethledge’s immigration rulings was enough to put Trump off, although the Journal also claims that POTUS found him to be a tad “low energy.” Which is weird, as (a) there’s been chatter all week about Kethledge’s outdoorsman ways and (b) he and Trump supposedly hit it off in his White House interview.

As for the conservative favorite, Barrett, the Journal tucks this away towards the end of its story on Hardiman:

Judges Amy Coney Barrett and Raymond Kethledge—both considered finalists for the nomination—were still in their respective home states of Indiana and Michigan, watchers said.

Gulp. The Journal’s piece is dated 2:56 p.m. ET. Still time to get from Indiana to D.C., but not a whole lot of time. On the other hand, this rumor is floating around Twitter:

Trump knows drama, I’ll give him that. It’s amazing that a White House that normally leaks like a sieve has been tight as a drum this time. Stand by for updates.

Update: Interesting, but not as interesting as you think.

Joe Donnelly from Indiana got an invite? Barrett’s from Indiana! Maybe she’s the pick after all.

Or maybe not. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota reportedly also got an invite and there are no North Dakotans in the mix. The White House is obviously trying to drag red-state Dems from various states into this process, which is good politics for November.

Update: Misdirection!

Update: From a New York Times reporter:

There’s no way Trump would go that far for a head fake, particularly since it would require Kavanaugh’s cooperation. He must be the pick. In hindsight, maybe all the recent chatter about Hardiman was salesmanship to make Kavanaugh more digestible to the base, some of whom have dismissed him as too Bushian. Throw a scare into righties that they might be about to get a less reliable dark-horse pick and suddenly Kavanaugh seems less objectionable. “You don’t like the star judge promoted by Bush? Well, then, how about … this random guy promoted by my sister, HUH?”

Update: More tea leaves: