Amid John McCain's continued threats to block her nomination, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice announced that she will withdraw her candidacy for secretary of state.
"If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly -- to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities," Rice wrote in a letter to President Obama, NBC News first reported. "That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country ... Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time."
"The position of Secretary of State should never be politicized," Rice continued. "As someone who grew up in an era of comparative bipartisanship and as a sitting U.S. national security official who has served in two U.S. Administrations, I am saddened that we have reached this point, even before you have decided whom to nominate. We cannot afford such an irresponsible distraction from the most pressing issues facing the American people."
"While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first," Obama said in a statement.
Rice has been consistently attacked by Sens. McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte for going on Sunday talk shows after the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and repeating talking points, based on CIA intel given to the administration at the time, that later turned out to be false.
In response to her announcement, both McCain and Graham were significantly more restrained in their language than they have been since the attacks.
"I respect Ambassador Rice’s decision. President Obama has many talented people to choose from to serve as our next Secretary of State," Graham said in a statement.
“Senator McCain thanks Ambassador Rice for her service to the country and wishes her well," McCain's office said, NBC News reports.
In place of Rice, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has emerged as the top contender, with Republicans talking him up as an appealing alternative in the weeks leading up to Rice's withdrawal.
ABC News also reported today:
Sources tell ABC News that even before Rice withdrew her name from consideration to be Secretary of State earlier today, Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., had emerged as the leading contender, with the president convinced he would be the better Secretary of State.
The president is all but certain to nominate Kerry, sources say, though no official decision has been made.