One positive feature (OK, this isn’t so positive) of a Supreme Court fight is that the formidable Supreme Court commentator cottage industry gets to ramp up again. Conservative groups raise a mint off a Court fight; most of it goes to enrich movement conservatives and little else. So now we get to see folks like Curt Levey on the teevee for the next 4-5 months. Huzzah!

In his first such media appearance, speaking to TPM, Levey pushed for one of the names on Obama’s short list to replace Justice John Paul Stevens over the others:

Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice, tells TPMDC: “We’ll certainly be involved one way or another. As the loyal opposition I’m sure we’ll point out what we see as the weaknesses” of any Obama nominee.

But he continued: “It does depend on who he nominates — if he nominates someone like Garland, there won’t be a lot to complain about,” referring to DC federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland. “You’ll have, if not a love fest, something close to it if it’s a Garland. If it’s a Wood or Karlan, you’d have a huge fight,” says Levey, referring to Chicago appeals court Judge Diane Wood, whose name was floated last time around, and Pamela Karlan, a Stanford Law School professor.

Merrick Garland is seen as the most moderate court pick. You can certainly see something of a bargain in the works, where Garland gets essentially “pre-approved” by conservatives and sails to confirmation. Keep in mind that this is basically how Steven Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg made it through a Republican Senate. The difference is that Obama has 59 seats and doesn’t really need to make such bargains, or at least not with the most conservative elements of the party. He needs only to pick off a couple Republicans.

But we know about the lure of the path of least resistance and getting a “W”, so certainly Levey is tipping his hand here. And I think he’s being at least somewhat sincere. It makes sense for him to push the most moderate of those named on the short list; this is how the Court has shifted rightward for the last 30 years, in small doses. He does tip his hand, however, in a way that suggests that Obama will not get off too easily no matter who he picks. Levey and his wingnut welfare colleagues HAVE to scream about a Court selection, as a fiduciary responsibility to their staffers. In this partisan age, I see no value in a “safe” pick, because it won’t be described as safe, except right here where Levey lets his guard down.

I’d pay attention, if I were the White House, to what Mitch McConnell is saying.

“As we await the president’s nominee to replace Justice Stevens at the end of his term, Americans can expect Senate Republicans to make a sustained and vigorous case for judicial restraint and the fundamental importance of an even-handed reading of the law,” McConnell said in a statement.

I’ll throw a couple other statements from key Senators on the flip.

UPDATE: This NRO post also puts Garland most in the center, followed by Solicitor General Elana Kagan. Read Glenn Greenwald on Kagan.

UPDATE II: Ed Whelan, another right-wing Court watcher: “I think Garland is the best nominee that Republicans could hope for… I think his selection would be a significant step toward resolving the judicial wars.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

“Justice Stevens has been a strong presence on the Court for almost 35 years and worked to build consensus and protect the rule of law. I honor his service to America and wish him well in his retirement.

“I am confident that President Obama will use the same wisdom that he showed with his nomination of Justice Sotomayor and name a well-qualified successor. I encourage my Republican colleagues to join us in conducting fair, respectful hearings and swift confirmation of the President’s nominee.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy:

When the Supreme Court recesses on Justice Stevens’ final day on the bench, it will mark the end of an extraordinary judicial career spanning four decades, including 35 years on our highest court.

The last Justice from “the Greatest Generation,” John Paul Stevens first answered the call to service when he joined the Navy during World War II. Our nation called on him again years later, and he returned to public service as an appellate judge before accepting President Ford’s nomination to serve on the Supreme Court. He has since become one of the longest serving Justices on the Court. His confirmation was the first of a dozen Supreme Court nominations I have considered in my years in the Senate. As a young, freshman senator, it was a privilege to support his confirmation in 1975.

Justice Stevens’ unique and enduring perspective is irreplaceable; his stalwart adherence to the rule of law is unparalleled. The federal judiciary, and indeed the entire nation, will miss his principled jurisprudence. While it is with a heavy heart, I wish him the best in his retirement.

As we move forward with preparations for the second Supreme Court nomination of this Congress, I am reminded of the Vermont marble inscribed above the entrance of the Supreme Court which pledges “Equal Justice Under Law.” I hope that Senators on both sides of the aisle will make this process a thoughtful and civil discourse. I expect President Obama to continue his practice of consulting with members on both sides of the aisle as he considers this important nomination. The decisions of the Supreme Court are often made by only five individuals, but they impact the daily lives of each and every American. All Senators should strive to fulfill their constitutional duty of advise and consent, and give fair and thorough consideration to Justice Stevens’ successor.