Next to guessing whom Mitt Romney will pick as his running mate, there's no more delicious fruit on Washington's tree of gossip than the identity of the next secretary of state. It remains a position of transcendent importance, especially in a new world where everyone seems to live and throw garbage in everyone else's backyard. The prospects generally lack the public presence and star power of most Foggy Bottom occupants—Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and Condi Rice, for example. And they certainly don't rival Hillary Clinton, who is determined both to stay until January and not be a lame duck. Doubt not that she has the will, standing abroad, and popularity at home to walk from office with head high.
The contenders for both President Obama and Romney are basically inside professionals, very well known and respected by peers and foreign leaders. But they lack the stage presence of their immediate predecessors.
Obama's list centers on John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice; and National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon. According to insiders, Obama is thinking Kerry would travel a lot and successfully, and interfere least with policymaking. Susan Rice's blend of soft and hard line sits well in the Oval Office. Donilon is regarded as the wisest policy and political head.