The cast of characters in the Obama administration is about to change.
Even though President Obama won re-election on Tuesday, many of his key advisers are expected to leave the government, which is not unusual at the start of any president's second term. Several of them are weary; others are eager to return to the private sector and more comfortable lives. And Obama is hoping to bring in aides with fresh ideas and a new level of energy. It remains to be seen whether his choice of new advisers will indicate that he will move toward accommodation or confrontation with his political adversaries.
The best-known official to depart is likely to be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has said she is not interested in keeping her job after four difficult and exhausting years. Clinton is expected to seriously consider a run for the White House in 2016, when Obama won't be eligible to run again. She lost the Democratic nomination to Obama in 2008 but remains a very popular figure in her party, as is her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Among those who might succeed her are Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who is a foreign-policy specialist and was the unsuccessful Democratic presidential nominee in 2004. Others believed to be in the running are Tom Donilon, the White House national security adviser, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. But Rice may face difficulty winning Senate confirmation because of her confusing explanation of the circumstances leading to the murders of four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador, in Libya last month.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also is expected to step down early next year. Considered among his possible successors are Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and former Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is also expected to leave next year, and he may be replaced by White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew, former White House budget director. If Lew departs his current job, the White House chief of staff's slot would be open, and Donilon is considered a possible successor if he doesn't get the job as secretary of state. Other possible candidates for White House chief of staff would be senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, a trusted Obama confidante from Chicago, or Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice President Biden.
Other possibilities for Treasury are Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff to President Clinton, who has solid relations with Republican members of Congress as former co-chairman of the high-profile Bowles-Simpson debt-reduction commission.
If controversial Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. steps down, he could be replaced by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, or Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Obama has also floated the idea of creating a new cabinet position, secretary of business. This job could go to Gene Sperling, the chief White House economics adviser who held the same advisory job under President Clinton. Or Obama could select a prominent business leader.
If White House Press Secretary Jay Carney leaves, those mentioned as a possible successor include campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki or Carney deputy Josh Earnest.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Facebook and Twitter.