UPDATE II - ABC News is reporting that Gorsuch is the favorite, but then there's this, referring to the first update below:
Leonard Leo, who is advising Trump on SCOTUS, tells me CBS report that the list has narrowed to two (with no Pryor) is "a stretch." #FWIW— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 25, 2017
I've said it once, and I'll say it again: This is the most consequential move that President Trump will make in his first few weeks, months, and possibly even years on the job. So yes, this is our second post in as many days on the subject. We profiled two of the alleged finalists yesterday, passing along Politico's scoop that Team Trump is inclined to hold back some of the leading female candidates for consideration under a potential second vacancy. Politico has now followed up with a new article reporting that the president has winnowed his choices down to three. The first two names should be familiar to our readers, but who is the third?
President Donald Trump has narrowed his first Supreme Court nomination to three finalists, with 10th Circuit judge Neil Gorsuch and 3rd Circuit judge Thomas Hardiman emerging as front-runners while 11th Circuit Judge Bill Pryor remains in the running but fading, according to people familiar with the search process. Trump interviewed at least those three finalists in New York during the transition, according to a person familiar with the search...“The president want to move as quickly as he can,” said Leonard Leo, one of Trump’s advisers on the court pick and a top official at the Federalist Society. Leo declined to discuss Trump’s short list, but he praised both Gorsuch and Hardiman effusively.
Click through for the supposed reasons that Pryor's chances may on the wane, as Gorsuch is picking up steam. And if Hardiman has catapulted into the top echelon, it's worth exploring who he is, too. SCOTUS blog sees a pretty reliable conservative jurist:
In some ways, the 51-year-old Hardiman has more in common with Justice Sonia Sotomayor – whom he would sit next to if nominated and confirmed to the court – than with Justice Antonin Scalia, whom he would replace: The Massachusetts-born Hardiman became the first person in his family to go to college when he went to the University of Notre Dame, and he financed his law degree at the Georgetown University Law Center by driving a taxi. (If nominated and confirmed, Hardiman would also bring educational diversity to a court on which all of the other justices attended Ivy League law schools.)...But the comparisons with Sotomayor largely end there. Hardiman is a solid, although hardly knee-jerk, conservative who was active in Republican politics before joining the federal bench, and his jurisprudence as a Supreme Court justice likely would be closer to another justice who hails from the 3rd Circuit: Justice Samuel Alito. During his nearly ten years as a federal appeals court judge, Hardiman has weighed in on a variety of hot-button topics important to Republicans, and his votes in these cases have consistently been conservative.
Plenty of details and paper trail analysis at the link. Allahpundit, who's also watching these developments very closely, speculates as to why Hardiman's biography may make a play for Trump's gut: "The appeal of Hardiman to Trump, I think, might be biographical: He was apparently the first person in his family to graduate from college and drove a taxi to help pay his way through law school. He’s based in western PA and has some bipartisan cred in that his wife’s family is Democratic and influential in the state. That is to say, Hardiman is a success story that comes straight from Trump’s base — blue-collar, Pennsylvanian, ties to both sides of the political aisle. Even his law-school alma mater of Georgetown, while prestigious, would be a break from the Ivy League stranglehold on Supreme Court appointments. If there’s such a thing as a “populist” pick for the Court, Hardiman might be as close as you can get." In any case, is Politico's "final three" sourcing solid here, or might we be in for a surprise? We will know very soon, as Trump has officially indicated that the announcement is coming next week