Kerry would by most accounts make a fine secretary of state. Certainly, as James Traub recentlynoted, he's got the visuals down -- solemn, suave, tall, etc. Plus, he's well-traveled and knows a lot about the world beyond America's borders.
But there's that nagging downside to moving Kerry out of the Senate: Now that Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has lost his reelection bid, he lurks as the likely Republican candidate in the special election that would be held to fill Kerry's seat -- and, unlike other Republican politicians in Massachusetts, he could actually win. Indeed, conspiracy theorists have suggested that the Republican opposition to Rice is motivated partly by a desire to turn Kerry's seat in the Senate from blue to red.
And Kerry wouldn't be vacating just any old seat, but the seat that holds the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee, which he occupies very ably. Robert Menendez of New Jersey would be in line to fill that spot -- a prospect that, according to reporter Laura Rozen, is viewed dimly in the White House because "the White House has a lot of problems with Menendez on foreign policy issues."
With Rice's nomination in doubt and a Kerry nomination having so much practical downside, maybe it's time to consider a third candidate? And who should that be? I'm not qualified to say -- I don't keep close track of all the D.C. foreign-policy players. But a couple of weeks ago, I did an informal email poll of people I know who keep closer track. And the favorite candidate, by a large margin, was William Burns, currently deputy secretary of state.