Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama has been privately reaching out this week to candidates for the pending Supreme Court vacancy, an administration source told CNN Tuesday.
The source - who is involved in the ongoing selection process - characterized the talks as "conversations," not formal in-person interviews that often are the last step before a nominee is chosen and announced.
White House officials have said they expect the president to pick his nominee by early May. Justice John Paul Stevens announced he would retire shortly after the court's current term ends in late June.
This latest development signals an intensification of the selection process, after officials in the White House counsel's office spent the past few weeks probing the professional and personal records of top contenders. That list will be narrowed in coming days as staffers make their recommendations to Obama.
The president's conversations were conducted over the phone, but the nature and topic of the discussions were not disclosed by the source, to give Obama a measure of privacy and discretion for such an important decision.
It was unclear which names on the White House short list of about 10 people are being given the most serious scrutiny.
Government sources had earlier told CNN three names had an early edge: Solicitor General Elena Kagan and federal appeals judges Diane Wood and Merrick Garland. But officials stress the president in recent days has expanded the list of names he wanted his staff to vet before he makes his decision.
Others being considered include Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Montana-based federal appeals judge Sidney Thomas.
The administration source would not say when Obama will sit down formally with any finalists. The president meets Wednesday with Senate leaders of both parties to discuss the upcoming vacancy.
Kagan, Wood, and Napolitano were interviewed privately at the White House last year, along with then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who eventually was chosen to replace now-retired Justice David Souter.
Go with Sidney Thomas. We need a non-East Coast outsider on the court.
I recommend Bill Clinton. He is qualified. In fact he has an incomparable resume. He has a very high IQ. He understands how government works at many different levels. He understands the law. He is capable of standing up to the five Republican Party hacks who are on the Court now. There's no downside to appointing him.
And, it will be hilarious to watch Conservative Senators go completely ballistic.
Wonder if the GOP put up Sarah or Todd Palin for the job, they have all the qualifications the GOP require.
No matter who President Obama picks, the Republicans will filibuster. Count on it.
They will portray the most wishy washy moderate as an extreme leftist bent on destroying America. That's what they've said about the very centrist Barack Obama. Why would they be more polite – or more reasonable – about a Supreme Court justice?
The real extremists here are the Republicans. They've become radical right-wingers in the past fifteen years, so much so that they can't even see the center from where they are.
The republicans have already decided to vote "np" – without knowing who will be nominated.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) has already told President Obama that sterling qualifications won’t be enough for his next high court pick to be confirmed.
These same Republicans held forth during the hearings for Bush nominees John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito that QUALIFICATIONS TRUMPED EVERYTHING!”
Republicans were the ones who shouted that “elections have consequences and that presidents should be given deference in choosing nominees that reflected their philosophy about how judges should approach the law!”
Can't have it both ways in the real world!
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Judge Leah Ward Sears would be my two top picks. I cannot understand why CNN and other media sources are so quiet about these two very qualified and exceptional women. Come on Anderson and Campbell, speak up!
Why are Democrats so afraid of a filibuster? Let the Republicans thunder on month after month until November. Are Democrats afraid of hurting Republican feelings or something. We hired them to make the "tough decisions." Apparently the tough decisions are what to have for lunch.
Is there a Democrat anywhere with some backbone?
Will they be communist, socialist or marxist?
That's right, no matter whom President Obama chooses the GOP/TP will be up in arms! They will do everything to prevent confirmation!
I agree, we need someone from the West Coast, perhaps an Asian-American.
I am little confuse about Kagan one of the high court candidates. Is she a he or she is a she?.
"I recommend Bill Clinton. He is qualified. In fact he has an incomparable resume. He has a very high IQ. He understands how government works at many different levels. He understands the law. He is capable of standing up to the five Republican Party hacks who are on the Court now. There's no downside to appointing him."
Well, the fact that he was disbarred might be a slight downside, don't you think?
Barry will pick who ever Hugo tells him to.
Repos are all set to shoot down anyone the president nominates. Thats been the game plan from the get go. No to everything. Vote them all out so this country can move forward.
Barry is desperately trying to find the most progressive liberal judicial candidate available to compliment his radical plans for America!
Pick a liberal.
It is time that he look into the best African American female to appoint he next Supreme Court. It is sad that Thomas is not a true representation of the Black community.
All I know is the next nominee better be more liberal than Lady Gaga!!!!
Obama; "You support federal funding of abortions?"
Obama: "You support discrimation of taxes to get Obamacare through?"
Candidate: Guess so, yea.
Obama: "You support transferring more power to the Federal government at the expense of the citizens?".
Obama: "You'll make a fine judge".