By all accounts, Barack Obama is the most liberal President of modern times. Proof of this, is in the fact that his record of defending his policies in the Supreme Court have placed him dead last among all Presidents since 1946.
So, when it came to replacing Justice Scalia on the nation's high court, it was expected that he would attempt to tilt it decidedly left with another very liberal Justice nomination. But, no. Instead, he nominated a moderate: Merrick Garland.
So what gives?
Well, this is just another way for the President to embarrass the Republican-led Senate and the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In other words, it's politics. By nominating an eminently qualified moderate, he can now sell the concept that McConnell and the rest of the GOP are being unreasonable if they fail to give Garland a hearing and a up and down vote. Should they go through the motions of having a hearing, but reject Garland's appointment with a down vote, he can still continue to claim that the Republicans are being unreasonable.
In my opinion, I don't think Garland is the kind of jurist that Obama really wanted. I'm sure that he wanted someone younger and one who would support more extreme liberal policies far into the future. But Garland -- in an election year -- provides him with a unique political opportunity to attempt to return the control of the Senate to the Democrats. If so, this would benefit the next President; should that President be a Democrat. Similarly, if the next President is a Republican, a Democrat-led Senate would derail anything he might need done. Obama sees this as a win-win for at least four more years after he leaves office.
Obama has struggled at the Supreme Court: http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/despite-this-weeks-victories-obama-has-struggled-at-the-supreme-court/
McConnell says Obama's Supreme Court nominee won't even have a vote after the election: http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/la-na-mcconnell-supreme-court-20160320-story.html
Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland has a record of restraint, not activism: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-garland-legal-analysis-20160318-story.html
Merrick Garland Is A 'Qualified' Supreme Court Nominee: http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2016/03/16/merrick-garland-supreme-court-nominee-obama/#57b6b6a82d6a