First, in the traditional establishment-front-runner role, you have the eminently qualified Brett Kavanaugh, darling of the legal-conservative community, bearing an Ivy League C.V., a long record of rigorous opinions and decades of Republican experience. In G.O.P. primary terms he’s George W. Bush in 2000 — unless he fails, in which case he’s Jeb! in 2016.
Then in the role of the social conservative insurgent, you have Amy Coney Barrett — newly appointed to the federal bench, famous for having her Catholic commitments crudely criticized by Dianne Feinstein, personally appealing because she’s managed to produce impressive legal scholarship while raising seven children (two adopted, one with special needs). In our primary typology she’s basically what religious conservatives hoped that Sarah Palin would be, before the Alaskan started giving interviews.
Third, in the role of the populist dark horse, you have Raymond Kethledge — a hunting-and-fishing Michigander, a handsome central-casting judge who worked his way through law school and co-wrote a self-help book, a proud outside-the-Beltway type who apparently has the charm required to ace an interview with the president. In primary terms he might be John McCain in 2000 or Lamar Alexander in 1996 — or maybe, in the president’s mind, the judicial version of Donald Trump in 2016.