When it comes to President Clinton's selection of a new U.S. attorney for Utah, the question likely isn't who but when.

Scott M. Matheson Jr. was pegged months ago as the man most likely to succeed David Jordan in the post. With Matheson's personal ties to Clinton and his

work as Clinton's campaign director in Utah, no Democratic lawyer in the state has a better shot at the job.

In fact, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which must confirm U.S. attorney appointments, says, "In this admininstration, the job is Scott Matheson's if he wants it," according to his press secretary, Paul Smith. Other Utah congressional offices agree.

And Matheson wants it.

"I've expressed an interest in being considered," he said.

But no one expects the appointment to come soon.

No action is expected at all until a U.S. attorney general is confirmed. Confirmation hearings for nominee Janet Reno are scheduled to begin next week.

Even after that several months may pass before the selection is made. The Clinton administration has been unexpectedly slow in making dozens of appointments more prominent than the U.S. attorney jobs.

Neither Jordan nor Matheson is pushing for quicker change. "I'm not aware of an active selection process going on right now. I think we are still at the beginning," Matheson said.

The delay may suit Matheson, who is a professor at the University of Utah law school. It would be easier to change jobs at the end of the school year.

Jordan said he, too, isn't in any hurry.

Matheson's popularity with Clinton hasn't stopped other Democrats from seeking the job. Other contenders for the post are Scott Daniels, James Holbrook, James McConkie, Pat Shea and Francis Wikstrom.

Should the Clinton administration and Utah's congressional delegation invite applications, some Democratic assistant U.S. attorneys working under Jordan are also expected to seek the post.

If Matheson wins the post, he will be the second Scott Milne Matheson to do so. President Harry S. Truman had appointed Matheson's grandfather to the post.

The younger Matheson's academic career has been brilliant. He graduated from Stanford in 1975 with a degree in economics and a 4.0 grade-point average. He attended Oxford University for two years on the Rhodes Scholarship. He graduated from the Yale Law School in 1980.

He managed his father's successful gubernatorial campaigns in 1976 and 1980. It was during his father, Scott M. Matheson's, tenure as governor that the Clinton and Matheson families became close.

In addition to managing Clinton's Utah campaign last year, Matheson was co-chairman of Karen Shepherd's congressional campaign. He also "helped out" on several other campaigns, he said.

Matheson was a member of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Williams and Connolly from 1981 to 1985. He joined the U. Law School in 1985 but took a year off in 1988 to serve as a deputy Salt Lake County attorney.

Matheson declined to discuss his bid for the U.S. attorney post. "I think it's better to just let the process take its course."

Matheson is 39. He is married to Robyn Kuida. They are the parents of two children.

Other hopefuls:

- Scott Daniels, 44, is a member of the Snow, Christensen & Martineau firm. Daniels served as a 3rd District judge for 10 years. Daniels stepped down from the bench in 1992 to run for Utah attorney general. He is a former chairman of the Salt Lake County and state Democratic conventions. He served as legal adviser for former President Jimmy Carter's campaign in Utah.

- James Holbrook, 48, is a member of the Callister, Duncan & Nebeker firm. He served as assistant U.S. attorney from 1978 to 1980. Holbrook now specializes in civil and federal criminal trial work. He is former counsel to the Intermountain Power Agency and a former member of the Giaque & Williams law firm. He worked on political campaigns for Wayne Owens, Kenley Brunsdale, Ted Wilson and Stewart Hansen.

- James McConkie, 47, is a partner in the firm of Parker, McKeown & McConkie. He worked as assistant U.S. attorney for one year beginning in 1977. McConkie has been active in state Democratic politics. He was former Congressman Gunn McKay's chief of staff from 1973 to 1977. He ran for Congress in 1978, for Utah attorney general in 1980 and for state Democratic chairman in 1985.

- Pat Shea, 45, runs his own law office. He is a former member of the VanCott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy law firm and has worked as in-house counsel for KUTV Channel 2. Shea ran for governor in 1992. He has worked on the staffs of U.S. Sens. Frank Moss, Mike Mansfield and Birch Bayh. He has also served as assistant staff director and, later, chief counsel for the Senate Intelligence Committee. In 1983, he served as state Democratic Party chairman.

- Francis Wikstrom, 43, is a member of the Parsons Behle & Latimer firm. He is chairman of the firm's litigation department. He focuses on commercial and environmental litigation. He served as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1979 to 1980. He served as U.S. attorney for Utah from 1981 to 1982. He is vice president of the Salt Lake County Bar.