Judge Kethledge is a graduate of the University of Michigan and its law school, while another finalist, Judge Barrett, attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., and Notre Dame Law School. She remains in the mix, officials said, but her interview with Mr. Trump was brief and her star has faded.
Mr. Trump, his aides said, is calling friends for advice while in Bedminster. His chief of staff, John F. Kelly, is with him — noteworthy, given the spate of reports that he is about to leave the White House. Mr. McGahn, aides said, has backed off Judge Kavanaugh a bit, telling colleagues he would be happy with at least three of the candidates.
The president’s advisers are counting on him making a clear choice so they can begin a campaign promoting his pick — one that is likely to include television ads, according to a person briefed on the plans. The White House is preparing background packets for Congress on Judge Kavanaugh, Judge Kethledge, Judge Barrett and Judge Hardiman, though he seems an also-ran, as he was last year.
Judge Hardiman had a cameo role in Justice Gorsuch’s nomination when a camera crew spotted him driving across his home state, Pennsylvania, hours before Mr. Trump was to announce his choice. White House officials planted the idea that he was part of a ruse to distract curious reporters, though Judge Hardiman said he was merely visiting a fellow judge in Altoona.
Either way, the White House managed to keep the Gorsuch appointment largely under wraps, and when Mr. Trump finally introduced the judge and his wife, Louise, at the White House, he could not resist gloating over his own showmanship.
“So was that a surprise?” he asked. “Was it?”