WASHINGTON -- Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) on Thursday asked President Barack Obama to take his name off his list of potential Supreme Court nominees, in an attempt to avoid becoming a pawn in the nasty partisan battle raging in Washington.
"Earlier today, I notified the White House that I do not wish to be considered at this time for possible nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States," Sandoval said. "I have also spoken to Senators Reid, Heller and McConnell and expressed the same desire to them. The notion of being considered for a seat on the highest court in the land is beyond humbling and I am incredibly grateful to have been mentioned."
Sandoval, a relative moderate who supports abortion rights, became caught up in the Senate's political fight on Wednesday, as soon as news leaked out that the White House was vetting him for the seat vacated by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have said they believe the next president should get to choose Scalia's replacement -- and have promised to obstruct any nominee Obama puts forward. On Wednesday, they responded to the mere mention of Sandoval's name by saying that they would block him, helping Democrats in their efforts to paint Republicans as extreme.
"I don't pick the justices, but I know if he were picked, I would support the man," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told CNN Wednesday, trying to show his desire to compromise. "He's a good person, has a great record, and has been a tremendously good governor in spite of having to deal with some very big problems there."
Reid no doubt knew the trouble Sandoval would cause for the GOP. As John Fund of the conservative National Review put it, "How better to apply pressure than to appoint a Hispanic Republican -- and former federal judge -- who might fracture the united front of GOP senators who have come out against an Obama nomination?"
But there's little doubt that some Democrats would have objected to Obama choosing a Republican nominee, passing up a historic opportunity to shift the ideological balance of the Supreme Court in a far more progressive direction.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told reporters in South Carolina Thursday that while she admires some of the work Sandoval has done, she hopes Obama will choose "a true progressive."
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said he still hopes to see Sandoval on the Supreme Court someday.
“As a friend and former colleague of Governor Sandoval's, I believe he is eminently qualified for this position," Heller said. "But, I support his decision to withdraw his name from consideration for the Supreme Court vacancy. I hope the next president will consider him in the future."