Obama set a trap and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately fell right into it. Already some of his Republicans are deserting Mitch however. Maine Senator Angus King is already calling for other Republicans to ignore Mitch and start the process.
Obama has both given the Republicans a gift, while knowing they won't accept it, and thereby setting a trap for them at the same time. It's a wise play on Obama's part.
What are the risks of rejecting Merrick Garland?
The risks are separate from both he and Obama at this point, all the risk is on the Republicans. If they refuse Garland, they face one of these 4 later making a selection.
Hilliary a feminist interested in a strong abortion supporting judge.
Ted Cruz who would pick someone even more repugnant to Democrats than Bork was, and also Republicans in the Senate who don't care to appoint a Cruz appointee, especially after Cruz called Mitch McConnell in the Senate, a Liar.
Bernie Sanders who will look as left as he can, especially one that is strong on "civil rights" which includes "economic welfare type policies".
Finally, Trump, someone maybe even more repugnant to the Republican elite, who might even offer Merrick Garland again, just to rub it in the noses of the elite Republicans who if they approve him, will then face the "why" of doing it then and not when nominated by Obama. They would really have to weasel around to explain that one.
It would then give Trump a stronger power over them by exposing hypocrisy or forcing them to reject Garland and looking even more like obstructionist even to their own party's President.
It's a slick move by Obama. The best path for Republicans are to quickly approve this nomination within the next month and put it and all the risk they'd assume otherwise behind them.
The next president will have a chance to approve at least one nominee if he's in there for 8 years and maybe more.
Kennedy is 80,
Only Kagan is under 60 years old.
Obama has handed the Republicans a gift, and they should accept it, rather than reject it and look entirely ungrateful during this election season.