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Ariel Edwards-Levy   |   December 6, 2012   12:07 PM ET

A month after the election, President Barack Obama's approval ratings are at a level he hasn't seen for years, with contentious negotiations over the upcoming "fiscal cliff" so far not dampening his support.

Obama has an approval rating of 53 percent among registered voters, according to a poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University -- the strongest approval level the university has measured since the summer of 2009.

Obama's disapproval rating of 40 percent makes the president's net approval rating the best in over a year.

"Nothing like winning an election to boost your job approval," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "President Barack Obama hasn't had a score this good since his 52-40 percent approval rating May 5, 2011, right after the death of Osama bin Laden."

Fifty-eight percent of voters said they're generally optimistic about the president's second term. The poll surveyed 1,949 registered voters by phone between Nov. 28 and Dec. 3, with a 2.2 percent margin of error.

Other surveys also show Obama faring well with the public -- his approval rating is 52 percent among along Americans in the Gallup tracking poll, and 54 percent in the Rasmussen tracking poll.

HuffPost Pollster's chart, which includes all publicly available polls, gives Obama a 51 percent approval rating, his highest since late 2009, with 45 percent of respondents disapproving.

Arthur Delaney   |   December 6, 2012    9:03 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa defended his association Wednesday with Campaign to Fix the Debt, an ostensibly bipartisan group whose partners and biggest backers support Republicans.

Villaraigosa, who chaired this year's Democratic National Convention, announced Tuesday that he would be the first office-holding Democrat to join Fix the Debt, which he praised for its approach to slashing the national budget deficit. Within a day, thousands had signed an online petition asking Villaraigosa to drop his association with the group.

"Fix The Debt’s corporate backed approach to gutting our social safety net is dangerous," says the SignOn.org petition. "You should be working towards a balanced approach that will not hurt working and middle class families."

In a statement on Wednesday, Villaraigosa said Democrats and Republicans need to cooperate on reducing the national debt. "There are tough decisions ahead and the only way that we are going to find long-term solutions is by stepping out of our ideological boxes and reaching out to a broader coalition to get something done," he said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

As HuffPost previously reported, 79 percent of campaign donations from CEOs on Fix the Debt's leadership council went to Republicans during the 2012 election cycle. The group advocates lower taxes and cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to reduce federal budget deficits and the ever-growing national debt.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the petition's creator said Fix the Debt is not bipartisan. "The mayor is now in corporate pockets," Angela Garcia Combs said.

Elise Foley   |   December 6, 2012   12:39 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Former Mitt Romney campaign adviser Stuart Stevens on Wednesday tried to explain the Republican presidential candidate's loss, telling PBS's Charlie Rose that the campaign lost control in its final week as Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast.

"After the storm, I never had a good feeling," Stevens said. "Not that the storm impacted things so much, per se, but these races -- a race like this is a lot like an NBA game. It's all about ball control at the end. ... We went from having these big rallies around the country to literally sitting around in hotel rooms and there was just nothing we could do about it."

Stevens has carried on as a cheerleader for Romney since the election, though many in the Republican Party have abandoned the candidate. The former adviser wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post last week, claiming Romney's ideas "carried the day" with voters who made more than $50,000 per year -- arguing those votes showed Romney was favored by the middle class.

Stevens told Rose he wrote that piece because he felt it was important to stand up for his side, even when it wasn't doing well.

Stevens gave a number of potential reasons for the election loss. He said the Romney campaign had to deal with both a grueling primary and the general election, which took up resources and at times led to muddled messaging. Overall, he said the campaign didn't expect Democrats to bring out so many voters, and Romney simply could not measure up.

He didn't blame the loss on Romney's comments about the "47 percent" of people who the candidate said are dependent on the government and want to stay that way. But he acknowledged it did damage.

"There are always moments when things don't come out right," Stevens said of Romney's remarks.

Stevens also addressed the infamous Clint Eastwood chair moment during the Republican National Convention, when the legendary actor was given prime-time billing and surprised nearly everyone by yelling at an imaginary President Barack Obama instead.

Eastwood "had very specific things that he was supposed to say," but took a different format at the last minute, Stevens said.

"Eastwood, um, it was very good of him to come out," Stevens said. "It's very difficult to get Hollywood people to come out. He felt strongly about this and he wanted to do it. He's spoken himself as to why he decided to do what he did. ... He asked for a chair as he was standing to go on stage."

Arthur Delaney   |   December 5, 2012   12:59 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- A top Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives pledged Wednesday to keep Congress in session until a deal on the so-called fiscal cliff has been reached, potentially jeopardizing many members' Christmas plans.

"The House will not adjourn the 112th Congress until a credible solution to the fiscal cliff has been announced," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said on Twitter.

The cliff represents the moment when big spending cuts and tax hikes are scheduled to take effect at the end of the year. Democrats and Republicans agree that the tax hikes and spending cuts should be replaced with smaller hikes and cuts, but they disagree on the specifics.

President Barack Obama campaigned for reelection on the promise of higher tax rates for incomes above $250,000, while Republicans have said they will only agree to increased tax revenue by closing unspecified tax loopholes and limiting deductions. The two sides also disagree on the scope of spending cuts and whether to include changes to programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Arthur Delaney   |   December 5, 2012    8:38 AM ET

If Republicans are trying to shy away from the notion that America is divided between productive capitalists and dependent moochers, they forgot to tell John Sununu. The former New Hampshire governor and Mitt Romney campaign surrogate said Tuesday that Democrats and President Barack Obama won reelection by turning out the moochers.

"They aggressively got out the base of their base, the base of their base that’s dependent, to a great extent economically, on government policy and government programs," Sununu said at a forum with two other Republican governors, according to the Concord Monitor.

Sununu's comment recalled Romney's infamous statement during the campaign that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government and would vote for Obama no matter what. The remarks, delivered at a big-donor fundraiser in May, roiled the campaign.

"There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them," Romney said. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

As it happens, Romney's former running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), repudiated that notion during an awards dinner in Washington on Tuesday evening.

"Both parties tend to divide Americans into 'our voters' and 'their voters,'" Ryan said, according to Politico. "Republicans must steer far clear of that trap. We must speak to the aspirations and anxieties of every American. I believe we can turn on the engines of upward mobility so that no one is left out from the promise of America."

Romney, for his part, initially defended his "47 percent" comment, then said he had been "completely wrong." But after the election he returned to the idea, saying Obama won by giving "gifts" to blacks, Hispanics and young voters.

John Celock   |   December 4, 2012    3:10 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- New York's state Senate will be run by a coalition of Republicans and Independent Democrats after election results had initially left Democrats with a slim majority in the 63-seat chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) announced Tuesday afternoon that the two groups have formed a coalition to govern the Senate for the next two years. The agreement includes power for both Skelos and Klein to set the Senate agenda, as well as having the two alternate in the post of Senate temporary president every two weeks. Klein had indicated last week that he was open to a power-sharing agreement with Republicans.

The Albany Times-Union reported from the statement released by Skelos and Klein:

Under the unprecedented agreement, the Independent Democratic Conference will be formally recognized as a third, permanent Senate conference. Senator Klein and Senator Skelos will assume the roles of Conference Leader for their respective conferences and will administer joint and equal authority over (1) the daily senate agenda (a/k/a the "Active List," which lays out which bills will be voted on each day, (2) the state budget, (3) appointments to state and local boards, and (4) leadership and committee assignments for their respective conferences. Under the agreement, coalition leaders will need to work together to lead the Senate forward. The new agreement will also provide for a process by which the title of Temporary President will alternate between the two conference leaders every two weeks. Therefore, the role of the temporary president will be constitutionally fulfilled at all times.

The temporary president's office is a constitutional post whose occupant serves as acting governor if Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy (D) are both absent from the state.

Election results had given Democrats 32 seats in the chamber with two contests still undecided, but with Democrats leading in one and competitive in the other. After the election, Sen.-elect Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) announced that he would caucus with Senate Republicans. Klein's move on behalf of his five-member conference cements the Democrats' status as the minority conference in the Senate. Democrats previously held control of the Senate in 2009 and 2010.

Klein formed the IDC in 2011 along with Sens. David Valesky (D-Oneida), Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) and David Carlucci (D-Clarkstown), saying Democrats had mismanaged the Senate during the two-year period. The four IDC members received committee chairmanships from the GOP. The Democratic majority in the state Senate has had defections before, as in the 2009 Senate coup, when two renegade Democrats joined Republicans to give the GOP control temporarily of the chamber.

The IDC grew Tuesday morning when Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) announced he was joining the conference. Smith had been ousted as Senate majority leader during the 2009 coup. Smith is considering a 2013 bid for New York City mayor as a Republican.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a Washington, D.C.-based group that works to elect Democrats to state legislatures, said that the six Democrats will need to explain themselves to voters who favored Democratic "values" in the legislature. "The people in New York voted overwhelmingly for Democrats to represent them in the legislature," DLCC spokesman Daniel Roth told HuffPost. "This gamesmanship goes against the voters of New York. Ultimately they will have to go back to their districts and explain themselves."

Nationally, Democrats had touted the party's apparent win of the Senate following the election. Cuomo has been criticized by progressive leaders in recent weeks, who have said that he did not do enough for elected Democratic senators. Cuomo also endorsed several Republican senators who backed his push for same-sex marriage in New York.

Klein was not immediately available for comment for this article.

UPDATE: Dec. 5 -- The IDC-Republican Senate coalition is being challenged by progressive leaders in New York. Dan Cantor, the executive director of the New York State Working Families Party, released a statement Tuesday challenging Klein to deliver a progressive agenda with Republican leaders.

Cantor said:

Today’s news puts the progressive agenda in jeopardy.

On Election Day, New Yorkers made their voices heard for a Democratic-Working Families majority because of the issues that hang in the balance in Albany. Public financing of elections. Women's health. Reforming stop and frisk. Raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation. A real DREAM Act.

These are not trivial issues. Senator Klein has voiced support for them in the past, but his Republican partners stand against us on each one. The burden therefore rests on the shoulders of Senator Klein and the IDC to prove that they can deliver. If they can, then this coalition may yet be validated. But if they cannot, then we will hold them to account.

Ariel Edwards-Levy   |   December 4, 2012    8:18 AM ET

Republicans in Congress could shoulder most of the blame for failed fiscal cliff negotiations, according to a Washington Post/Pew Poll released Tuesday.

A 53 percent majority of Americans said congressional Republicans would be more to blame if leaders failed to hammer out a deal, while just 27 percent would mostly blame President Barack Obama. While Democrats were the most likely to fault the GOP, about half of independents and 19 percent of Republicans also said they'd blame congressional Republicans.

As the Post's The Fix blog notes, "Those numbers are largely unchanged from a Post-Pew survey conducted three weeks ago and suggest that for all of the back and forth in Washington on the fiscal cliff, there has been little movement in public perception."

Polling on the issue has consistently shown that most Americans expect both sides to compromise, but that few hold out high hopes. A CNN survey found that two-thirds expect elected officials to behave "like spoiled children" in the negotiations.

GOP officials have been publicly pessimistic about the prospects for a deal, with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) saying Sunday that "we're nowhere" and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) predicting a trip over the fiscal cliff. Perhaps accordingly, the Republicans polled are the most pessimistic, with 69 percent predicting that a deal won't be reached.

A HuffPost/YouGov poll this week found that Americans are unsure how well the talks are going or the likelihood of a resolution. A majority predicted there was some chance a deal would be reached, with more than 20 percent unsure.

The Post/Pew poll surveyed 1,003 adults by phone between Nov. 29 and Dec. 2, with a 3.5 percent margin of error.

John Celock   |   December 3, 2012    8:47 PM ET

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) has given two aides from his failed U.S. Senate campaign state jobs, including one who he dispatched to a basic debt class during an earlier stint working for Mandel's state office.

Mandel placed the two campaign aides in the treasurer's office less than two weeks after he was defeated by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in one of the country's most competitive Senate races, the Dayton Daily News reports. Mandel gave campaign political director Joe Aquilino a $90,000-a-year post as deputy legal counsel and director of regional representatives, while Mandel campaign tracker Jared Borg received a $62,000-a-year post as Mandel's deputy director of regional representatives.

Aquilino worked for Mandel in the treasurer's office as director of debt management in 2011, prior to joining the Senate campaign. Aquilino, 27, had been political director for Mandel's 2010 treasurer's campaign. The Huffington Post reported that Mandel had sent Aquilino to a beginner's course in debt management in April 2011 during his previous tenure in the office.

Borg officially held the title of political coordinator for Mandel's Senate campaign. The Dayton Daily News reported that his duties included following Brown around the state with a video camera. A post on the website for the Ohio State University College Republicans directs internship applicants to send resumes to Borg.

Treasurer's office spokesman Seth Unger defended the hires to the Dayton Daily News and cited Mandel's record.

“Treasurer Mandel generated a $1.6 million surplus in the 2012 fiscal year operating budget, largely by streamlining staff in the office and reducing operating expenses. He reduced the budgeted office payroll by more than $944,000, while improving the bond rating, launching a new local government investment program, and increasing security as a watchdog of taxpayer dollars,” Unger said in a written statement. “Treasurer Mandel has great confidence in the staff he employs in the office, and the work that they do on behalf of taxpayers across Ohio.”

Mandel was criticized by Brown during the campaign for his hiring practices in the treasurer's office, including reports that he awarded high-paying jobs to college friends and political aides. Aquilino's new job falls under Mandel general counsel Seth Metcalf, a college friend of Mandel who managed the Republican's campaign for student government president at Ohio State University. Mandel was also criticized by state Democrats for not responding to records requests for the resumes of staffers he hired. The treasurer's office released the resumes on the ninth request.

Aquilino and Borg will be overseeing the regional representatives that Mandel employs statewide. The Pomeroy Daily Sentinel reported earlier this year that a Mandel regional representative presented awards on Mandel's behalf to volunteers at the Meigs County Fair. The South Metro Regional Chamber of Commerce reported that a Mandel regional representative in the Dayton area spoke to business leaders alongside Mandel's deputy treasurer about economic development programs in the treasurer's office. The Commoner Journal reported in November 2011 that a Mandel regional representative attended a "meet and greet" with Vinton County officials.

Mandel has said he plans to seek a second term as treasurer in 2014.


Michael McAuliff   |   December 3, 2012    1:13 PM ET

Medical industry donors are apparently getting sick and tired of Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Tennessee Republican doctor who pressured his patient mistress to get an abortion and wrote prescriptions for another patient he was having sex with.

DesJarlais' fundraising ability took a beating after revelations of the first affair and abortion demand, but DesJarlais rallied and managed to win reelection handily.

Soon after, however, a judge released full transcripts from DesJarlais' 2001 divorce, which revealed that the doctor admitted to a string of affairs with coworkers and patients at the hospital where he was chief of staff, and also agreed to two abortions with his wife.

Now, political action committees affiliated with the medical profession are starting to look for a new doctor, reports the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

Political action committees connected to the health industry gave a combined $71,000 to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ successful re-election effort.

But at least six PACs that gave to DesJarlais’ 2012 campaign, including local insurance giants BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Unum, said they won’t give again in 2014.

For more, read here.

DesJarlais has signaled he will not resign, and told a radio host over the weekend that he believes God has forgiven him, but he's already facing at least two potential Republican primary challengers.

He also faces a medical ethics complaint filed with the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners.

Nick Wing   |   November 30, 2012    7:16 PM ET

Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) made an interesting attempt to free himself from the anti-taxation bonds of Grover Norquist's pledge this week, announcing that his recent reelection to a redistricted swath of Hudson Valley effectively cleared the slate.

Gibson had signed the "no new taxes" pledge coordinated by Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform group when he was elected to represent New York’s 20th Congressional District in 2010. But following a U.S. Census-mandated redrawing of district boundaries, he won reelection in November in the 19th District. In a statement, Gibson argued that his new borders allowed him to reconsider the conditions of the pledge.

"Regarding the pledge moving forward, Congressman Gibson doesn’t plan to [re-sign] it for the 19th Congressional District, which he now represents (the pledge is to your constituents of a numbered district)," his statement says. "Those voters have just evaluated the Congressman on his record and his record is the same as his position now -- again, that he’ll fight for tax policy that helps those he represents."

The statement says that Gibson is still "opposed to increasing the marginal rates for individuals and businesses."

The conservative National Review quickly panned Gibson for his "evasive maneuvers," accusing him of coming up with a "ridiculous excuse" that could lead to his voting for tax increases.

Norquist, who has faced public dissent from several Republicans as they try to reach a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, recently lit into lawmakers who were suggesting the pledge was anything less than a lifetime commitment.

Addressing Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who had argued the pledge was only a two-year agreement, Norquist said, "I hope his wife understands that commitments last a little longer than two years or something."

King shot back that his wife would "knock [Norquist's] head off" for that comment.

John Celock   |   November 30, 2012    3:17 PM ET

Kansas' secretary of state is renewing his efforts to gain prosecutorial power as part of his voter identification push.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) plans to ask the state Legislature to give his office the power to investigate and prosecute all suspected voter fraud cases in the state, the Associated Press reports. He previously sought the prosecutorial power, which currently rests with county attorneys, in 2011 but was rebuffed by state lawmakers. Kobach has been a leading advocate for the state's stricter voter identification law, which he said is ending voter fraud in Kansas.

"County attorneys are so overworked, and these cases fall at the bottom of the stack," Kobach told the AP.

Kobach's proposal comes as more-conservative Republicans are poised to take control of the state Senate from a moderate Republican faction in January. Kobach, along with Gov. Sam Brownback (R), are considered leaders of the state's conservative Republican faction, which also controls the state House of Representatives. Nonetheless, Republican legislative leaders told AP they were concerned about expanding the powers of the secretary of state.

The secretary of state serves as Kansas' chief elections officer. The office also registers businesses and regulates sports agents, cemeteries and funeral homes.

Rep. Ann Mah (D-Topeka), the ranking minority member of the state House Elections Committee, confirmed that moderate Republican senators had pulled Kobach's request out of the voter ID bill last year. She said she is not surprised that he plans to renew his effort with a more-conservative legislature. Mah, who was narrowly defeated in the 2012 election, has long been Kobach's leading opponent in the state Legislature.

Mah, who argues that there is in fact little voter fraud in Kansas, said that Kobach has not been able to prove such cases exist. Earlier this year, Kobach had said issues relating to ACORN's voter registration practices led him to seek the voter ID law in Kansas.

"Kobach is all about expanding powers," Mah told HuffPost. "Frankly, if he got it, it is time for him to put up or shut up."

Mah said that she has sought material from Kobach's office about voter fraud cases and that the material she's obtained has largely related to retired Kansas residents who live part of the year in the state and part of the year elsewhere. She said these voters, with no ill intent, may end up registered and voting in both states.

"I can't wait for him to drag some snowbird off to jail," Mah said. "That will go over well with the public. They will see the emperor has no clothes. When he starts dragging elderly people out of nursing homes, we'll see how that goes over."

Karl Rove's 'Worst Volunteer Job' Ever

Ariel Edwards-Levy   |   November 30, 2012   11:24 AM ET

Karl Rove says that divisiveness within the Republican Party is to blame for Republicans' failure to retake the Senate and the presidency, despite millions of dollars in outside spending.

The GOP needs to quell its infighting, he told an audience Wednesday at the Kansas Livestock Association's 100th convention in Wichita. The problem with the Republican Party isn't social issues, he said, but "an unwillingness to acknowledge differences."

"I'd rather have somebody who agrees with me most of the time than to send somebody there who's going to vote against my values and my views and do the wrong thing most of the time," he said.

Rove has spent much of his time since the election defending the performance of his Crossroads organizations, which spent more than $300 million supporting Republican candidates, with few successful results. Some of his top donors are reportedly fuming.

The Republican political operative also sounded unhappy with the experience, although he placed much of the blame on warring candidates.

"I was involved in a group called American Crossroads. It's the worst volunteer job I've had in my life," Rove said. "I was in charge of raising money. We raised $324 million. And I got sick and tired of spending money in races where the moderates and the conservatives had gone at each other and made victory impossible."

He called for Republicans to show more forbearance, saying, "It's got to be something that people are willing to say, 'Fine, I'm looking at politics with a longer frame. You and I may not agree on everything but we agree more often than not, and I'm going to live to fight another day.'"

After a pause, he added, "Easier said than done."

John Celock   |   November 30, 2012    9:32 AM ET

A Democratic state senator is beginning to make moves for a possible challenge to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) in next year's election.

State Sen. Barbaro Buono (D-Metuchen) is being included a poll in order to test her chances in a match-up against Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) in a Democratic gubernatorial primary next year, PolitickerNJ.com reports. The move comes as Booker also considers entering the governor's race. PolitickerNJ.com reported that the poll discussed Buono's record and asked whether voters would choose her or Booker. Buono did not comment for the article.

The Democratic moves come days after Christie officially signaled his intent to seek a second term next year. A poll released earlier this week shows Christie holding a 72 percent approval rating among New Jersey voters, in light of his leadership of the state during and after Hurricane Sandy. Another poll indicated that Christie would defeat Booker, who is considered his strongest challenger, 53 percent to 35 percent. Booker is also considered a possible U.S. Senate candidate in 2014.

Buono, a former Senate majority leader, was first elected to the Senate in 2001 after several terms as an assemblywoman. She is the first woman to serve as Senate majority leader and as Senate budget committee chairwoman. Prior to serving in the state legislature, she served as a councilwoman and police commissioner in Metuchen.

Buono was ousted as majority leader earlier this year in favor of Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck). In 2009 Buono was also considered a potential lieutenant governor alongside former Gov. Jon Corzine (D), a slot she also lost to Weinberg.

In addition to Buono and Booker, state Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland), Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville), Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage have all been mentioned as potential candidates against Christie next year. Codey served 14 months as governor following former Gov. Jim McGreevey's resignation, while Wisniewski serves as state Democratic Party chairman. The Star-Ledger reported that Sweeney will run if Booker does not.

Christie was unanimously endorsed earlier this week by the Republican State Committee, and the state Senate Republican caucus indicated that Christie plans to meet with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) next week to discuss whether she will also run for a second term on his ticket. Assemblyman Sean Connors (D-Jersey City) also indicated he'd consider endorsing Christie's bid for a second term.

Buono's gubernatorial toe-dip comes as New Hampshire Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan (D) is poised to become the only Democratic woman governor in the nation in 2013. Four Republican women -- Arizona's Jan Brewer, New Mexico's Susanna Martinez, Oklahoma's Mary Fallin and South Carolina's Nikki Haley -- hold governorships.

Ariel Edwards-Levy   |   November 29, 2012    9:51 AM ET

United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, a possible successor to Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, got some words of support from Clinton Wednesday.

"Susan Rice has done a great job as our ambassador to the United Nations," Clinton told reporters at the State Department. "Of course, this decision about my successor is up to the president, but I am very happy he has the opportunity with a second term to make a decision."

President Barack Obama also defended Rice from Republican criticism, calling her "extraordinary."

Rice had a series of difficult meetings on the Hill with Republicans this week. A trio of senators -- John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said she hadn't addressed their concerns about her explanations of the September attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also said she "continued to be troubled" and wanted further information about Rice's role.

Rice reportedly said she had been given incorrect information about the attacks, but hadn't deliberately made misleading remarks.