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May 7, 2010 7:49 PM

Place your bets: Supreme nominee coming soon

President Barack Obama appears to be just days away from announcing his choice to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, and observers in the nation's capital are playing one of the city's most popular games: guessing.

Obama has formally interviewed at least four candidates for the job, and administration officials have indicated that the president will announce his pick early next week. While reporting has zeroed in on a handful of likely nominees, the White House has stressed that no official decision has been made.

In Washington, speculation has concentrated around U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, a former Dean of Harvard Law School who garnered seven GOP votes when confirmed to her current position in March 2009. 

Kagan, 50, has the advantage of being one of the youngest Supreme Court shortlisters. She was closely considered as a replacement for Justice David Souter, who retired last year, but Obama ultimately selected appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to fill the vacancy.

Federal appellate Judge Merrick Garland, 57, also has been widely discussed as a possible pick. Garland, a judge from the D.C. Circuit federal appeals court, is known for his warm relationships with both Republicans and Democrats.

Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Garland a "consensus nominee" and said Thursday that he would support him if nominated. (Asked about Kagan, Hatch replied, "We'd have to see.")

And Diane Wood, an appeals court judge in Chicago, met with Obama on Tuesday. A strong supporter of abortion rights with a lengthy judicial paper trail, she could face tough opposition from Republicans in the Senate.

Sidney Thomas, also a federal appellate judge, has reportedly been interviewed by the president as well. Thomas, who is originally from Montana, would add geographic diversity to the court but is not widely known.

Msnbc.com's Carrie Dann contributed to this report.

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