President Donald Trump is set to announce his Supreme Court pick Thursday — or maybe even earlier, if a rumor flying around Washington is to be believed. There have been reports that Trump, who during the campaign named 21 prospective nominees and promised his final choice would be one of them, has narrowed his options to three, all currently serving on federal courts of appeals: Neil Gorsuch from the 10th Circuit, Thomas Hardiman from the 3rd, and William Pryor from the 11th.

But there’s also a feeling in Washington that some other player might still be in the mix. When discussing Senate-confirmed nominations, it always make sense to look at the favorites of powerful senators, and in that case, there just happens to be one candidate on the Trump list from Kentucky and two from Iowa — the home states, respectively, of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley. (Amul Thapar, who has often been praised by McConnell, is currently on the U.S. District Court in Kentucky, while Iowan Steven Colloton serves on the 8th Circuit, and Edward Mansfield serves on the Iowa Supreme Court.) Things might not be as narrowed-down as some think.

Trump’s 21-name list was well received in the conservative press and in conservative legal circles, so it’s safe to say that if Trump picks anyone from it, the choice will be popular with those groups. Republicans and conservatives will be on board.

The reception Democrats will give Trump’s choice is also easy to predict. Pick a name, any name, from the list and the odds are good that Senate Democrats and the groups that support them will portray the GOP nominee as an out-of-the-mainstream right-wing extremist who will move the country backward on civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, transgender rights, environmental protections, and all sorts of other areas.

So prepare for a lot of boilerplate arguments from both sides.

Still, there is a real debate going on as the Trump announcement approaches. From the White House to the Senate to the conservative legal groups, there is a lot of attention being paid to the question of “confirmability.” Should it matter? Should Trump consider it when making his decision? And, given the intensity of feelings on both sides even before a nomination is announced, will it make any difference at all?

As with everything on Capitol Hill, the confirmability debate is about numbers. There are 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats in the Senate. Republican lawmakers are likely to unite behind Trump’s choice, which means Democrats could only stop the nominee by filibuster, which would require 41 votes to sustain. That means Minority Leader Charles Schumer could lose a maximum of seven Democrats and still succeed in stopping the nominee. That is not a given, since there are several Democrats who come from states Trump won last November, who are up for re-election in 2018, and who might therefore support Trump’s choice. And of course, even if Democrats can pull off a filibuster, McConnell seems likely to use the nuclear option to blow it up, meaning that in the end Trump’s nominee would be confirmed by a simple majority vote.

Confirmability calculations are based in large part by previous confirmation votes. Gorsuch, Hardiman, Pryor, Colloton, and Thapar have all been confirmed by the Senate before, and each presents a different story.

Gorsuch breezed through on a voice vote in 2006, the last year of Republican Senate control under George W. Bush. Hardiman came up in 2007, after Democrats took control of the Senate and Bush was a lame duck. He was confirmed 95-0. Colloton came earlier, in 2003, during a period of intense fighting between Republicans and Democrats over the appeals courts, yet was still confirmed 94 to 1.

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As for Thapar, put him aside — he was confirmed by voice vote in 2006, but district court nominees are usually not terribly controversial and don’t result in the scrutiny or the bloodshed that can mark appeals court nominations.

That leaves Pryor. The Alabama-born judge, a favorite of conservatives, was caught up in the worst of the 2003 judicial confirmation wars. Bush nominated him to the 11th Circuit, and on June 11, 2003, Pryor had one of the most remarkable hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in many years.

Pryor was, and is, a serious social conservative. Solidly pro-life, he once called Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.”

At his hearing, Pryor ignored the script for dealing with such statements. In the normal course of GOP confirmations, a Democratic senator raises the controversial statement and the nominee responds that he made a poor choice of words, or that he would say it differently today, or that his thinking has evolved. Not Pryor. When Schumer quoted the “abomination” line to Pryor and asked, “Do you believe that now?” Pryor had a simple and quick reply: “I do.”

Schumer seemed almost taken aback; here was a nominee who was not going to play along. “I appreciate your candor,” Schumer told Pryor. “I really do.”

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He really didn’t. Schumer and his fellow Democrats filibustered the Pryor nomination, essentially killing it in the Senate. On February 20, 2004, Bush used a recess appointment to put Pryor on the 11th Circuit. By the next year, in June 2005, Republicans and Democrats had settled the filibuster wars, and Pryor came up for a permanent confirmation vote.

Pryor won, but it was close — 53 to 45. In the process, Pryor lost three Republicans — Lincoln Chafee, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins. Another Republican, Lisa Murkowski, did not vote. At the same time, Pryor picked up the support of two Democrats — Ben Nelson and Ken Salazar.

Today, Chafee, Snowe, Nelson, and Salazar are gone from the Senate. But Collins and Murkowski are still around. And with 52 Republicans, it’s not a good thing to have one who voted against a nominee and one who is a question mark. That’s cutting it close. That is what confirmability is about, and it could be a problem for Pryor.

On the other hand, if Trump’s first week in office showed anything, it is that the president doesn’t mind making controversial moves. And by the way, Trump nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions to be attorney general with full knowledge that Sessions once lost a confirmation fight in the Senate. Pryor’s vote might not be a problem for Trump if everything else about him seems right.

Still, both the White House and the GOP Senate leadership would prefer to confirm Trump’s nominee without a nuclear showdown over the filibuster. They believe they can succeed.

The reason they believe that is because of the political pressures on a number of Democratic senators. West Virginia’s Joe Manchin is from a state Trump won by 42 percentage points. North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp is from a state Trump won by 36 points. Montana’s Jon Tester is from a state Trump won by 21 points. Missouri’s Claire McCaskill and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly are from states Trump won by 19 points. Ohio’s Sherrod Brown is from a state Trump won by eight points. And Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, and Florida’s Bill Nelson are from states Trump won by a single percentage point.

All are up for re-election in 2018.

Can Trump’s nominee win the votes of eight of those nine? He’ll certainly win some, but eight could be an uphill fight, especially given Trump’s small margin of victory in some of the states.

On the other hand, 2018 election prospects are not the only consideration. The last time Democrats tried to filibuster a Supreme Court nomination, when Samuel Alito was before the Senate in February 2006, a total of 19 Democrats rejected the filibuster. Alito was confirmed. Getting 41 senators to agree to filibuster a high court nominee is not easy.

On the other other hand, 2006 was eons ago, and today Democrats are deeply angry about McConnell’s decision to deny consideration to President Obama’s last nominee, Merrick Garland, instead leaving a court seat open since the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016.

McConnell hasn’t said what he would do if Democrats really do try to filibuster Trump’s nominee. All McConnell has said is that the president’s nominee will be confirmed. How could he be any clearer? If Democrats really mount a successful filibuster, Republicans will use the nuclear option to kill it, just as Harry Reid did with other nominations in 2013.

That’s where confirmability comes in. Yes, Trump can get his Supreme Court nominee through the Senate. But does he want to do it easy, or does he want to do it hard? “Easy” is probably a bad choice of words, because whoever Trump picks will face a fight. But some choices could be tougher than others. Trump has a difficult decision to make, and he has to make it soon.

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