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Regardless of who becomes President of the United States for the next four years, one thing is for sure: he will need to find a replacement for outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

Clinton has reiterated, multiple times in the past couple years, her interest in retiring from politics when Obama's first term ends. After spending 20 years in the political spotlight as First Lady, U.S. senator, presidential candidate, and finally Secretary of State, Clinton's decision to retire is both timely and respectable. 

Unfortunately, this will be a tough position to fill. Amid all of the controversy surrounding the State Department with regards to the Benghazi Attack, the incoming Secretary of State will have a lot on his or her hands, juggling the department's mishaps, pushing for U.S. interests abroad while maintaining diplomatic relations in the international community.  

So, who is slated to become the next Secretary of State? Let's take a look at some possible candidates, broken into the three most likely to serve during a Romney Administration and an Obama second term:


1) John R. Bolton 

Romney appointing Bolton as Secretary of State may not be such a far-fetched idea. As a foreign policy advisor to Romney, Bolton shares quite a few of Romney's views, such as opposing talks with the Taliban and advocating for a strong American military presence overseas. However, a history of controversial stances may prevent him from landing the job. In the past, Bolton has been a strong critic of the United Nations, and his penchant for making blunt statements has made enemies both at home and abroad. Another interesting fact about Bolton is that he has spoken in favor of the Mujahedin, which was on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations from 1997 until its removal last month.

Notable Credentials: Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Ambassador to the United Nations, Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security (under Bush Jr.), and Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (under Bush Sr.)

2) Richard S. Williamson

Like Bolton, Williamson is part of Romney's inner-circles and favors hawkish policies when it comes to foreign affairs. As one of the veteran policymakers among the candidates, Williamson has credentials that include helping to resolve the Darfur crisis in Sudan and holding senior foreign policy positions in all Republican administrations since President Reagan's tenure. The icing on the cake? His unwavering loyalty to Romney throughout the campaign season. 

However, Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin predicts Williamson will become Romney's National Security Advisor instead. 

Notable Credentials: Ambassador to the United Nations, Special Envoy to Sudan (under Bush Jr.), Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs, and Professor of International Studies at Northwestern University.

3) Robert Zoellick

Though less far-right than Bolton and Williamson, Zoellick also serves the Romney campaign by leading Romney's national security transition team. Furthermore, Zoellick is well-known in economic and foreign policy circles for his emphasis on free trade as one of the U.S.'s primary national interests. In the past, Zoellick has been influential in endeavors such as entering Iraq and negotiating Darfur peace talks as the Deputy Secretary of State. However, the problem some conservatives have with Zoellick is that he's a realist who is "soft" on China and not enough pro-Israel, making him almost an anomaly in Romney's foreign policy brigade. This clash of ideologies might hurt his chances of getting the job. 

Notable Credentials: World Bank President, Deputy Secretary of State (under Bush Jr.), U.S. Trade Representative, Undersecretary of State for Economic and Agricultural Affairs (under Bush Sr.), and Counselor of the State Department (under Bush Sr.)

May have missed the mark:

Other names that have been tossed around include: Stephen Hadley, Richard Haass, Robert Kagan, Joe Lieberman, Rob Portman, Robert Kimmitt, and John Negroponte.

The first two would be solid mainstream picks for Romney. Hadley worked with the Bush Administration as National Security Advisor, while Haass has plenty of experiencespecializing in international security, Asia, and the Middle East. However, both aren't as neoconservative as Bolton and Williamson. Hadley thinks it's time to talk to the Taliban, and Haass has renounced the Iraq War and is in favor of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan quicker than Romney's plan entails. 

Negroponte, in particular, just might be the "dark horse" in this decision. Though not as close to Romney as Bolton or Williamson, Negroponte has the marks of a future Secretary of State with already five ambassador assignments under his belt and a brief stint as Deputy Secretary of State to boot.


1) John Kerry

As the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, this senator from Massachusetts is well-versed in foreign policy and has had close ties to Obama the past few years, even launching the President onto the national stage during his 2004 presidential bid. Kerry has also taken on the role of an unofficial envoy to places like Pakistan and Afghanistan. It's clear that Kerry is the frontrunner in this race. 

Notable Credentials: Chairman of Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

2) Thomas Donilon

Dubbed as a level-headed, experienced foreign policy hand, Donilon has worked with both the Obama and Clinton Administrations on various tasks regarding national security and diplomacy. Particular highlights involve his role with negotiating the Bosnian peace agreement and his advocacy for strengthening NATO. 

The only thing preventing him from landing a seat in the Cabinet is if Obama would prefer to keep him as his National Security Advisor. 

Notable Credentials: Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs (under Clinton).

3) Susan Rice

Rice is arguably the most controversial of the three candidates, as she is the most likely to "meddle" in policymaking. Her support for military interventionism when it comes to human rights and genocide sets her apart from the others, but also causes her to clash with some people within the Obama administration.  Moreover, she has been at the center of several recent firestorms, including calls for her resignation after misleading the public with regards to the Benghazi attack. Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping

Notable Credentials: Ambassador to the United Nations, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs of the U.S., and Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping (under Clinton).

May have missed the mark:

According to the Daily Beast, Obama's list is pretty much set on the three aforementioned. However, Cathy Hayes at the Irish Central suggests that Samantha Power, a director of Obama's National Security Council, could be next in line for the job. Global Grind also adds Keith Ellison's name to the list. However, while it may be both fascinating and timely to see a Muslim as Secretary of State, Ellison's lack of experience, relative to the other candidates, will remove him from consideration.

What are your predictions? Would you add any names to this list?