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With President Barack Obama locked in for another four years at the White House, the big question has quickly become: Who will succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state?
Clinton has said she will step down when the current presidential term ends in January.
“She intends to see through the transition of a successor, and then she will go back to private life and enjoy some rest, and think and write,” State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
Political analysts have been handicapping the race to succeed her for months, and usually come up with the same short list of potential successors including Democratic Senator John Kerry, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and National Security advisor Tom Donilon.
But each of these front-runners have drawbacks that may put the State Department out of reach, and Obama’s surprise choice of Clinton as his former Democratic presidential rival for the job in 2008 could signal a willingness to reach out of the box to find America’s next top diplomat.
“Star power is important in this position. It’s very difficult to follow someone as well liked and capable as Hillary Clinton with the kind of presence she has globally. It is part of Obama’s effort to repair the U.S. image abroad, and he feels that stars can get that done.” said H. Andrew Schwartz, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
John Kerry, former 2004 presidential candidate, and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, seems to fit the role well.
Kerry would bring years of experience to face policy problems including the Middle East peace process, the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program, and the crisis in Syria.
But Kerry’s opinions could work against him in job where he would be expected to follow Obama’s instructions.
“The only one who knows how this is going to play out right now is the president,” Damon Wilson, a former official in the National Security Council said.