Lugar won applause from many Democrats in both chambers for his stinging 2005 assessment that then-President George W. Bush's Iraq war strategy was "not working." The onetime Bush ally called on the U.S. to "downsize the military's role" there. He also has won wide acclaim for his work on hindering the spread of nuclear weapons and materials. "If his health is good," Korb says, "he would make one heck of a secretary."
Finally, an old rumor is suddenly new again in Washington national security and foreign policy circles: Clinton and Vice President Joseph Biden, a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, switch jobs if Obama is re-elected.
"There was back-channel discussion within the administration last year of offering the secretary of state's position to Biden," says Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, who picks up gobs of political intelligence as a consultant to politically plugged-in defense business sector clients. "Biden has extensive knowledge of the State Department from his quarter-century of service on the Foreign Relations Committee, and Obama's re-election bid would be strengthened by a running mate [in Clinton] who can deliver a large swing state such as Ohio."
Though the rumor has new life on the sidelines of Washington forums and cocktail parties, there is one catch. Secretaries of state are not generally hardcore political campaigners. They typically find it important to fly above the messiness of partisan politics. Biden, however, is already campaigning hard for the Obama-Biden ticket's re-election.