Obama now looks at Kerry for Secretary of State

8:13 AM, Dec 14, 2012   |    comments
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 24: U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) arrives prior to the start of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on January 24, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama said the focal point his speech is the central mission of our country, and his central focus as president, including 'rebuilding an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.' (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been considered a leading contender for the post along with Rice.

With current Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton set to retire soon, President Obama is looking at a revamp of his national security headed into his second term.

The CIA slot is open -- thanks to the David Petraeus sex scandal -- and there are reports that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta may retire sooner rather than later. Former Sen. Chuck Hagel is said to be in line for the next Pentagon opening.

As for Secretary of State, Rice announced Thursday she is dropping out of the race. Senate Republicans had criticized her for comments after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, setting up the prospect of a tough Senate confirmation fight that Rice cited in her withdrawal letter to Obama.

That would seem to open the door for Kerry. Obama's team hasn't said much about second term personnel openings, so there could be a mystery candidate who has received less attention (National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, perhaps?).

Whatever happens, Kerry -- the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee -- has already played a large role in Obama's political life.

It was Kerry who picked Obama, then an Illinois legislator seeking a U.S. Senate seat, to give the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention. That speech launched Obama's national political career.

When Obama sought the presidency in 2008, Kerry endorsed him at a key moment -- after Obama lost the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Now the question is whether Obama will pick Kerry.

(Copyright © 2012 USA TODAY)

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