Former aides and supporters of Kethledge, a Michigan resident who moves outside Washington circles and is considered the least known of the leading contenders, are quietly circulating positive information about the judge’s personal life, political profile and reassuring record on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. The tacit message: If Brett Kavanaugh is a well-connected D.C. insider, and Amy Barrett is a grass-roots favorite but lacks experience, Kethledge is a down-to-earth Michigander who checks all the boxes for conservatives.

“Unlike many people, he’s not a D.C. insider,” said Kethledge pal Christopher Yoo, a University of Pennsylvania Law School professor. Kethledge and Yoo shared an office when they clerked for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy from 1997 to 1998. “He doesn’t belong to the kind of circles of power that other former clerks are often drawn to. What’s quite telling is his love of Michigan, his love of outdoors. … One of the highest compliments he can give about a person is they aren’t afraid to drink beer straight out of the bottle.”