For Obama, the legal legacy begins with Souter replacement

"I hope that he will pick somebody who will not put their own personal predilections into law," Hatch said on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos, "but follow the law and do what really is right."

Hatch and other Republicans already have approved one potential nominee, former Harvard law dean Kagan, when they confirmed her as solicitor general.

Kagan has won praise across the ideological spectrum — including from former solicitor general Theodore Olson, a Republican — for her legal experience and skill at leading an array of political thinkers at Harvard. The Senate confirmed her, 61-31.

Whatever models Obama considers, he now has an opportunity he once only mused about. "I loved the law school classroom," he wrote about teaching constitutional law, "the stripped-down nature of it, the high-wire act of standing in front of a room at the beginning of each class with just a blackboard and chalk."

That, Obama is likely to find, is nothing compared with the high-wire act of choosing a Supreme Court nominee.

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