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Kerry Becomes US Secretary of State Frontrunner

Senator John Kerry speaka during an election night rally in Massachusetts, Nov. 6 2012.
With U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice taking herself out of the running for U.S. secretary of state, attention is now turning to Democratic Senator John Kerry as the leading contender for the job.

Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, is expected to be easily confirmed by his Senate colleagues if President Barack Obama nominates him for the post.

The 69-year-old Massachusetts senator was an early Obama supporter and was considered to become his first secretary of state before the president chose Hillary Clinton. Clinton has long said she would retire after Obama's first term.

Another potential figure in the president's upcoming Cabinet shake-up is former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who is now seen as the frontrunner to succeed Leon Panetta as defense secretary.

The selections of Kerry and Hagel would place two decorated Vietnam War veterans at the helm of U.S. foreign and military affairs. Kerry served in the Navy, while Hagel was in the Army.

President Obama also must choose a new head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after retired General David Petraeus resigned last month because of an extramarital affair.

Obama will be sworn in for a second term in a low-key ceremony at the White House on January 20. Since the day falls on a Sunday, his public swearing-in will take place January 21.