President Obama is said to be “genuinely conflicted” about whether to nominate his favored candidate, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, or Sen. John Kerry as his next secretary of State, two aides said. Rice faces stiff resistance from some Republican senators — as well as grumbling among some foreign-policy elites who question her suitability — yet the GOP objections may backfire, making the president even more likely to nominate her so as not to be seen as backing down.

White House officials say only the president knows at this point whom he will choose to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has indicated she will depart before the second term begins. Obama, who told Bloomberg TV on Tuesday that he has not yet made his decision, may be putting it off so as not to disrupt the critical negotiations currently underway over avoiding the year-end “fiscal cliff.”