"It definitely is a test for the Obama administration, for the president," ABC News' George Stephanopoulos told "Good Morning America". "It will reveal a lot about his feelings, his ideology, where he wants to take the court, where he wants to take the country."
Obama's comments today echo what he said during his campaign, when he vowed to appoint a judge who would fight for those who couldn't fight for themselves.
"We need somebody who's got the heart -- the empathy -- to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old. And that's the criteria by which I'll be selecting my judges," he said in July 2007.
And in March 2008, Obama again explained what he believes makes a reasonable judge.
"Some of our best justices have been people who knew a little bit about how the world works. ... I want my judges to understand that part of the role of the court is to look out for the people who don't have political power, the people who are on the outside, the people who aren't represented, the people who don't have a lot of money," Obama said.
Obama added to his March 2008 remarks that he "absolutely" wants women on the court, and it's widely expected he will use this opportunity to appoint another woman to the bench. Out of nine Justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the only woman currently serving on the court.
Stephanopoulos said the leading candidate could be Sonia Sotomayor, a federal appeals judge. If nominated and confirmed, she would be the first Hispanic to join the court.
Stephanopoulos said Sotomayor's story is one of the American dream, as she worked her way up from housing projects in the Bronx to Princeton and Yale Law School. And a Republican -- George H.W. Bush -- first nominated her to the bench.
The list of possible contenders could also include Elena Kagan, Diane Wood or Leah Ward Sears.
Kagan is the former dean of Harvard Law School who Obama picked to serve as solicitor general, the U.S. government's litigator before the Supreme Court. Wood serves as a federal appeals judge in Chicago, and Sears, the first African-American woman to serve as a Superior Court Judge in Georgia, is the chief justice on that state's Supreme Court.
The opportunity to choose at least one Supreme Court justice is expected during most presidencies, and rumors of retirements seem to spike near the end of each term as other concerns surface.
Speculation ramped up about a possible Ginsburg retirement, as she is battling cancer for the second time. But even though she underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer during a recess in February, Ginsburg hasn't missed a day of work on the court and has stated that she plans to stay on for the near future.
Replacing a member of the court will round out Obama's already packed agenda, loaded with initiatives concerning the economy, health care, energy and foreign policy.
"They have been thinking about this already, you would expect them to want to have someone in place before the court's next term begins in October," Stephanopoulos said. Obama said today that he hopes to have the next Justice sworn for that fall term.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to complete its current term in June. Nomination and confirmation hearings could go on during the summer in preparation for the court reconvening in October.