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Mon Nov 19, 2012, 12:01 PM

McCain vs. Obama, the sequel

The GOP hasn't shared the Arizona senator's zeal for stopping Susan Rice's appointment -- at least not yet


Barack Obama has said nothing directly about whom he’ll appoint to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, but he sent what the political world is regarding as a clear signal when he emphatically vouched for Susan Rice’s integrity last week.

If Obama does nominate Rice, the current U.N. ambassador and his longtime friend, it will create a very public showdown between the president and the man he defeated in 2008. The question is whether John McCain, who has emerged as the GOP’s loudest Rice critic and pledged to block her nomination, is fighting this battle by himself – or if he can bring the rest of the Republican Party along with him.

If stopping Rice at all costs were to become a GOP priority, her nomination would be in serious jeopardy. Republicans will have 45 votes when the new Senate convenes in January, more than enough to uphold a filibuster. Plus, if Rice were nominated and it became an all-out partisan battle, Republicans would potentially be able to win over a few red state Democrats, who might feel home state pressure to side against Obama. West Virginia’s Joe Manchin comes to mind here.

But even by the standards of today’s filibuster-happy Senate, it would be somewhat extraordinary for the GOP to unite and block a nominee for secretary of state – especially given how weak the case against Rice actually is.

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