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Filling John Paul Stevens Supreme Court vacancy big test for Obama

Replacing retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens depends largely on who President Obama nominates. But given Obama's political standing these days, confirmation by the Senate is unlikely to be quick and easy.

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President Obama has many choices to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. But confirmation could be difficult given today's political climate.

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What a difference a year makes. On May 1, 2009, President Obama announced the retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Mr. Obama’s job approval stood at 65 percent in the Gallup poll. His nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, was confirmed by the Senate 68-31.

Now Obama has another Supreme Court vacancy to fill with the retirement announcement Friday of Justice John Paul Stevens, and Gallup has the president at 49 percent. Obama has just used up a lot of political capital passing healthcare reform, and his increasingly unpopular Democratic Party is heading into difficult midterm elections.

How this nomination process goes will of course depend heavily on who Obama selects. Someone with impeccable credentials and no major controversies could expect confirmation in a Senate where the Democrats still have a 59-41 majority. But atmospherics do matter, especially at a time of sharp partisan differences.

IN PICTURES: Frequently mentioned Supreme Court possibilities

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