.... The President has gone to his trusted circle (and those who can be vouched for from his trusted circle) whenever he can for sensitive positions. This explains Valerie Jarrett, Cass Sunstein, and others. When he's gone outside his circle, as with the choice of Vice President Biden, there's greater room for tension and mismatch. Judge Wood comes from the same University of Chicago circles, and she can be vouched for. She would not be a "stealth" Justice, as Justice Souter was.
3. Nominating Judge Woods gets a progressive judge on the Court using the Roberts/Alito playbook. If you choose someone who has a truly excellent reputation as a judge, it becomes very hard for opponents of that person to block the nomination on ideological grounds. If the real goal is getting a progressive leader on the Court, this is the easiest path.
4. The other nominees present harder paths to nomination. There have been attacks on Judge Sotomayor's temperament and ability to work with other judges. My colleague Rob Kar has responded to these attacks, and vouches for the judge's intelligence and temperament. But it will be a battle, and one that would be fought over whether the judge, whom opponents will say would have been chosen for her ethnicity, is an outstanding judge. (See Eric Posner's evaluation of Judge Sotomayor's appellate record using Gulati and Choi's framework, concluding the judge is about average, or slightly below average, on a number of measures.) President Obama could have this fight, and probably win it, but the question is whether he wants to spend his political capital on this when he is fighting over health care, the economy, the environment, and so many other things in Congress right now. A Roberts-like hearing moves quickly, and gets the country back to other business.
"Do not touch the water. There is nothing more irradiated than the water itself."