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Now that the hand-wringing about the presidential election is over, we turn our sights to President Obama’s new cabinet in 2013. The remarkable stability of Obama’s cabinet in the first term will be upended with a host of changes in the second. There is rampant speculation that at least four critical cabinet members — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Attorney General Eric Holder — may leave the administration in the coming weeks.

Who could replace them? As we take a look at the possible candidates in this slideshow, we invite readers to leave their own suggestions in the comment section.

Photo by IIP State via
Secretary of State, Option 1: John Kerry

The front-runner to take over Hillary Clinton’s position is Massachusetts senator and former presidential nominee John Kerry. Kerry’s foreign policy experience as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, as well as his knowledge of Afghanistan and Pakistan, would prove a valuable asset as Secretary of State.

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Secretary of State, Option 2: Richard Lugar

The senior Senator of Indiana and longtime stalwart of the Republican Party saw his hopes for another term in the Senate dashed when Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock defeated him in the primaries earlier this year. However, Lugar’s time as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, his work in dismantling nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons around the world, and his friendship with President Obama make him a solid candidate to replace Hillary Clinton’s spot.

Photo by scriptingnews via
Secretary of State, Option 3: Tom Donilon

A third possibility for Secretary of State could be Tom Donilon, who has served as National Security Advisor since 2010. The New York Times calls him the man who “wakes the president when an ambassador is killed in Libya, the one who tries to keep Israel from rupturing relations and Egypt from heading off-track.” As an expert in international affairs, with the capacity to consider multiple factors at once, Donilon is a strong contender.

Photo by The White House via Wikimedia Commons
Treasury Secretary, Option 1: Jack Lew

As Timothy Geithner prepares to step down as Treasury Secretary, the top option to replace him is White House chief of staff Jacob Lew. Lew previously headed Obama’s Office of Management and Budget, and is known for his negotiating chops in striking tough bipartisan deals. He cut his teeth under the Clinton administration, when he came under the spotlight for his central role in negotiating the landmark 1997 Balanced Budget Act.

Photo by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff via
Treasury Secretary, Option 2: Erskine Bowles

A second option for Treasury Secretary, albeit a less likely one, would be former Clinton administration official Erskine Bowles, who came on to the national stage recently as one half of the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan. Appointing Bowles to the Treasury would indicate a powerful willingness by the White House to reduce the deficit, but might alienate a Democratic base that has little sympathy for his positions.

Photo by Medill DC via
Attorney General, Option 1: Deval Patrick

With Eric Holder expressing little inclination to continue in his fraught role as Attorney General, speculation has opened up as to who might step in to take his place. The first name to come up is usually Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts. However, his aides have already stated that Patrick has no interest in the job. “The governor has the only job in public life that he wants — and he looks forward to completing his term as governor,” said Alex Goldstein, the Executive Director of Patrick’s political committee “TogetherPAC.”

Photo by photofarmer via

Attorney General, Option 2: Janet Napolitano

Another option to take over for Holder is Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Napolitano served as Attorney General of Arizona from 1999 to 2002, and is considered by many to have the right experience for the role.

Photo by  The National Guard via
Secretary of Defense, Option 1: Jack Reed

Senior Senator of Rhode Island Jack Reed is a top candidate for the position that may be vacated by Leon Panetta. Reed was offered the job following the departure of Robert Gates in 2010, but ultimately declined.

Photo by United States Senate via Wikimedia Commons
Secretary of Defense, Option 2: Michele Flournoy

A leading contender for the job is Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy. The Daily Beast cites a senior Democrat who wishes to remain anonymous as saying, “She’s brilliant, smart as hell, has deep knowledge across the defense issues—personnel, weapons systems, strategy, she knows how to run the Pentagon, and she’s very well liked.”

Photo by Secretary of Defense via 


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