WASHINGTON - WASHINGTON - The successful academic and public-service legal career of native New Yorker Elena Kagan has hit one bump that possibly hints at how high she might go.

A decade ago, Republicans blocked Democrat Kagan's nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, preventing her from stepping onto what is considered a launchpad to the Supreme Court.

That might turn out to be a temporary setback.

Kagan instead became dean of Harvard Law School, the first woman to be U.S. solicitor general and now tops some speculative lists of President Barack Obama's choice to replace Justice John Paul Stevens.

Obama offered no names for a successor after Stevens said he was retiring Friday though he said he wants someone with Stevens' qualities.

A White House official said Obama would consider about 10 candidates but eschewed playing "the name game."

Many politicians, partisans and pundits are focusing on last year's runners up to Sonia Sotomayor, Obama's pick to replace Justice David Souter.

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On the short list were Kagan, U.S. Circuit Judge Diane Wood of Chicago, and D.C. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland. Obama interviewed all three.

Kagan isn't a polarizing figure. She's known for reaching out to conservatives at Harvard and has friends on both sides.

Still, liberals say they worry Kagan's views are too unknown, preferring Wood for her abortion rights rulings.

Some conservatives prefer Garland - Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice called him "a safe pick" that doesn't appear to be agenda-driven.

Kagan, 49, was born in New York City and attended Hunter College High School, Princeton, Oxford and Harvard Law.