[A]s scrutiny of his record intensifies, it's hard for many to decide exactly what McConnell is: conservative, liberal, or a perplexing blend of both.
Capitol Hill sources and other players in the increasingly frenzied Supreme Court sweepstakes place McConnell, a judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, at or near the top of the short list of possible picks for the high court if a vacancy occurs later this month.
And while some liberals like McConnell, others are gearing up for a battle royal against him, especially over his sharp opposition to abortion rights and his deep support for school vouchers and for aid to parochial schools.
"He is very troubling, and very likely," says Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Yet if President George W. Bush appoints McConnell, 50, it appears he will have at least some support from liberal academics, as he did when more than 300 law professors supported him for the appeals court judgeship in 2002. "He has integrity, smarts, and is more open to a range of views than others we might get," says one liberal law school ally of McConnell who did not want his name revealed before a vacancy materializes.
UPDATE: Am I for Justice McConnell?, a commenter asked. I'm certainly one of the 300 lawprofs who signed the letter Mauro refers to. And I love the idea of a "perplexing blend" of liberal and conservative, and not just because that's what I consider myself. I'm sure my blend is different from his. But what I want is a real human being, a hardworking, serious scholar, who is not an ideologue, but someone we really can trust for the next thirty years. It will be a credit to President Bush if he picks Judge McConnell.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Gordon concurs.