Senator John Kerry - AP Photo
(USA TODAY) - President Obama will formally nominate John Kerry for Secretary of State, officials said Friday.
Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would replace Hillary Rodham Clinton if confirmed by his fellow Senators.
Two senior administration officials confirmed the nomination on the condition they not be named, noting that Obama will make a formal announcement later Friday.
Kerry's path to the nomination cleared last week when another candidate -- United Nations ambassador Susan Rice -- announced she would not pursue the Secretary of State post.
Kerry -- the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee -- played a key role in Obama's rise to the presidency.
It was Kerry who picked Obama, then an Illinois legislator seeking a U.S. Senate seat, to give the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention. That speech launched Obama's national political career.
When Obama sought the presidency in 2008, Kerry endorsed him at a key moment -- after Obama lost the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Obama also considered Rice, a long-time aide, for the Secretary of State job.
But Rice pulled out after Senate Republicans had criticized her for comments after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, setting up the prospect of a tough Senate confirmation fight. In a series of interviews, Rice attributed the attack to a protest of an anti-Islam video that got of hand; officials later called it an organized terrorist attack.