WASHINGTON -- President Bush appears ready to announce his second nomination of a Supreme Court justice, with women and minorities believed to be at the top of a short list of candidates to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor.
The president was not giving any hints yesterday as he walked to his helicopter to fly to Camp David for the weekend. He gave a slight grin and a shrug when asked whether he had made a decision.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters ''you should work under the assumption that we are in a window when the president could be making an announcement."
Heightening anticipation, McClellan said Bush had completed preannouncement consultations with the Senate, although some Democrats questioned whether the process was just for show. The president and his staff talked with more than 80 senators, he said.
As for Bush's list of prospects, ''it's not that long," McClellan said. Legal activists in contact with the White House suggest the list has been narrowed to five or six candidates.
Senate Democrats said that if the president submits the name of any previous judicial nominee whom they have filibustered -- including federal appellate judges Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor, and Miguel Estrada -- they will vigorously fight the nomination.
Mentioned most frequently in recent days are appeals court Judges Owen, Karen Williams, and Alice Batchelder; Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan; White House counsel Harriet Miers; Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; and
Others mentioned include Maureen Mahoney, a former deputy solicitor general, and appeals court Judges J. Michael Luttig, Edith Jones, Samuel Alito, Michael McConnell, and Consuelo Callahan.
Callahan, like Gonzales, is Hispanic. There has never been a Hispanic Supreme Court justice.
Laura Bush, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, and others have urged the president to nominate a woman.
Democrats are warning that the nominee will face a tough confirmation battle if Bush picks a hard-line conservative. Liberal groups are asking for a moderate.