All of these approaches add up to one general conclusion: If confirmed, Kavanaugh is likely to be a very conservative justice in the mold of Alito or Neil Gorsuch. Predicting exactly where he’ll fall is harder to do, but given the court’s composition, it doesn’t matter whether he’s the second- or third-most conservative member of the court — the question is whether he’ll join the solid bloc on the right-most side of the court or stake out territory in the center-right, like Roberts.

For some court-watchers, though, the clue-hunting method remains more appealing than cobbling together the results of several clever — but imperfect — quantitative analyses. Blackman, the law professor, said he viewed Kavanaugh as most similar to Roberts. Since we’re natural empiricists here at FiveThirtyEight, we asked why. “You won’t like my answer,” he said. It was simply that he’d been following Kavanaugh’s career closely for over a decade.