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Ketanji Brown Jackson courts Republicans, though Romney likely won’t make decision known until ‘day of the vote’

By Clare Foran and Morgan Rimmer, CNN

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson met with two closely watched Republican senators on Tuesday — Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine — but it is still unclear whether she will win any GOP support.

Senate Democrats can confirm Jackson to the high court without Republican support if every member of their caucus votes in favor, which appears on track to happen, and Vice President Kamala Harris breaks a tie. But if Democrats can win GOP support, they will be able to tout the confirmation as bipartisan.

Romney told reporters on Tuesday, though, that he doesn’t expect to reveal his decision until the day of the confirmation vote.

“After I’ve made a decision as to what I’m going to do on this vote, you’ll see it, but that’s probably not until the day of the vote itself,” he said.

Following the meeting with Jackson, Romney said in a statement that they “had a wide-ranging discussion about her experience and qualifications.”

“She’s a very impressive person. She’s intelligent, capable, she’s a lovely person as well and I think a great deal of her,” Romney later told CNN. “But delving into differences on judicial philosophy and her approach to the law is something that I’m going to keep working on.”

Jackson also met with Collins on Tuesday. Only three Republican senators voted in favor of Jackson last year when the Senate confirmed her to fill a vacancy on a powerful DC-based appellate court: Collins as well as Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Collins told reporters that Jackson “provided clarification on some of the issues, so it was a useful meeting and I’ll reflect on her answers tonight.”

Pressed on what those topics were, Collins would only say, “I followed up on several of the issues that you would probably think that I would follow up on.”

Graham, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, directed fierce, highly critical questions toward the nominee during her confirmation hearings last week and has appeared to signal he will not support her nomination. Collins and Murkowski are not on the Senate Judiciary Committee and did not have a chance to question the nominee during the hearings.

Former Sen. Doug Jones, who is acting as a “sherpa” for the nominee, told reporters Tuesday after Jackson’s second meeting with Collins that he believes the judge “answered all the questions” from the Maine Republican.

“I think we answered all the questions. It was a very good meeting. We really appreciated Senator Collins’ time,” he added.

Asked how much Republican support he expected Jackson to receive, Jones said, “We’re not taking anything for granted, (the) confirmation vote is still to come, and so we’re gonna keep working.”

He also acknowledged that Collins is the only senator who Jackson has met with one-on-one more than once.

So far, however, no Democrats have publicly signaled they will vote against the nominee.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a key moderate and swing vote, announced on Friday that he plans to vote for Jackson, a move that all but guarantees she will be confirmed.

Manchin has railed against some Republicans for their criticism that Jackson is soft on crime, an accusation the nominee and Democrats have rebutted.

“It was disgraceful. It really was, what I saw. I met with her, I read all the transcripts. … It was embarrassing. It’s not who we are. It’s not what we were sent here to do, to attack other people and try to tear them down. I’m not going to be part of that. I think she’s extremely well qualified and I think she will be an exemplary judge,” Manchin told CNN.

This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

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CNN’s Manu Raju and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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