While I was out on vacation the SCOTUS pick circus seemed to be stuck in a loop of rumor and innuendo. Various reporters all had supposed scoops from “sources familiar with the President’s thinking” announcing that this or that judge from Trump’s famous list was either eliminated or almost a sure thing. Last night, Allahpundit was following the closing hours of contentious guessing games, with Raymond Kethledge being pretty much the favorite… until it all changed again and Kethledge was almost surely out, replaced by Thomas Hardiman.

Up until last night, the “experts” had it coming down to a coin toss between Brett Kavanaugh and Kethledge, though a different crop of “sources” kept insisting that Amy Coney Barrett was still the apple of Trump’s eye. It’s enough to keep everyone jumping through hoops until the name is finally revealed tonight. And I’m willing to bet you dollars to donuts that Trump couldn’t be happier about it. He loves to keep people guessing and talking about a story which will remain one his biggest selling points among the base.

Sadly, much of the fighting is coming from the conservative side of the commentariat, with arguments breaking out over either which choice is conservative enough, or which ones are too conservative, potentially driving off the vote of Susan Collins and scuttling the entire process. This has been disheartening to watch because this sort of infighting ignores both the obvious goal of the process as well as the major threat to success. Yelling at each other doesn’t do a thing to prepare us for the real challenge, which is getting this done on the first shot and getting it right.

At the moment, Republicans can only afford to lose a single vote in the Senate and still see Trump’s next nominee seated in a timely fashion. The Democrats, without even knowing who the nominee will be, are lining up to ensure not a single one of their members votes to confirm. In fact, just in case any of the vulnerable Democrats in red states begin getting weak in the knees, it’s being suggested that perhaps their own political careers aren’t as important as stopping this nomination. (Fox News)

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., acknowledged that so-called red-state Democrats may be tempted to vote for Trump’s selection out of political necessity, but urged his colleagues Sunday to consider more than their political careers.

“Beyond the procedure, beyond the gamesmanship, it is a life-and-death important decision to be made by this court on so many issues,” the Senate minority whip said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“The men and women that I work with on the Democratic side really take this seriously,” he added, after host Chuck Todd raised the possibility that Democrats could lose their bid to retake the Senate by opposing the nominee. “They understand it’s an historic decision. It’s about more than the next election. It’s about what future the United States of America is going to chart.”

We can ignore for now the rather self-defeating nature of Durbin’s proposal. (If they manage to stop the appointment but lose a few seats in the Senate then the GOP would be even more easily able to approve the next pick in January.) The point is that a worst case scenario is still possible. Contra Durbin, if the Democrats manage to swing a couple of GOP votes away and bog this down until the midterms, it’s conceivable (though I still believe unlikely) that they could take back the Senate majority. If that happens, Trump’s list can pretty much go out the window and we could potentially be looking at an eight justice court until after the 2020 elections. (Either that or a “compromise” candidate, not from Trump’s list, who turns out to be another Souter.)

Such things should still be avoidable if we keep in mind that this is not the time for internecine warfare. It’s the point that I was ranting about on Twitter for a while last night. This can be boiled down to a five-step mental process:

1. Trump said he would stick to the list.
2. We all liked the list.
3. Let him pick a name.
4. Get 51 votes.
5. On to the next fight.

Follow that up with the sobering reality of what could have been happening this week if the cards had played out slightly differently. Consider all the names that President Hillary Clinton would be choosing from compared to the “worst” judge on that list.

This really is as simple as keeping all of the GOP senators herded inside the pen or, failing that, making sure the only one we lose is Collins and Mike Pence is on hot standby, ready to come down and break a tie. (This job falls on Cocaine Mitch now.) Trump is heading off to Europe pretty much as soon as he announces the nominee. The media circus will follow. But back at home, the grinding interviews with the nominee will need to be carefully managed. Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot now by starting our own civil war over which judge on the list is the best, the second best or the fourth best. They’re all light years ahead of anything we could have gotten from Hillary.