WITH THE three amigos Senators McCain, Graham and Ayotte hanging in the Capitol square with their pre-planned partisan talking points hanging out, one question has risen to the top. Will Senator McCain place a hold on Susan Rice’s nomination?

As Andrea Mitchell reminded everyone on “Morning Joe” today, many a name and exemplary individual has been halted from rising upward due to the power of one person.

Somebody on Senator McCain’s side knows the damage that’s been done by his obviously personal campaign against Rice, which can be explained in an extraordinary John McCain puff piece on Politico, complete with an adoring McCain looking gaga at Hillary Clinton. The subject and timing of it comes out of nowhere. This suggests that either some PR flak has been very busy or the usual discomfort at seeing John McCain flailing is being felt deep inside the Beltway establishment.

Into this steps Senator Susan Collins being interviewed by Maureen Dowd, in the second poison pen piece she’s done on Ambassador Susan Rice since the Benghazi furor erupted. This is remarkable, because of the place Collins holds in the Republican Party and in the eyes of people like Dowd. Seen as a moderate by the national media, Senator Collins is also seen as a thermometer of potential trouble brewing or expanding. That she’s a woman helps. If only Republicans had a woman of color to tap, too.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the soft-spoken ranking member on the homeland security committee, hasn’t been part of this shrill debate. Though they had met only once or twice, Collins agreed to introduce Rice to the Foreign Relations Committee in 2009 when Rice was nominated as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Rice’s grandparents immigrated from Jamaica to Portland, Maine.

“I don’t bear any animus to her at all,” the senator said. “In fact, to the contrary.”

But she said she is “troubled” by Rice’s role. “If I wanted to be secretary of state,” Collins observed, “I would not go on television and perform what was essentially a political role.”

The emphasis added above is important. Dowd wanting to make sure to get that on the record, because if Collins also finds Amb. Rice’s remarks with her in private wanting, the message being sent from someone like Collins is then supposed to be taken seriously.

Even on “Morning Joe” today the issue of Rice’s “temperament” rose to the top. To Ms. Brzezinski’s credit, though she thought the diplomatic touch of Rice was worth exploring, she slammed the double standard that a woman is expected to apologize even when she’s done nothing wrong. Scarborough was furious at the three amigos for making such a spectacle, incredulous that their spectacle was good for Republicans.

We’re now waiting for Senators Collins and Corker to weigh in after their meetings.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Susan Rice did “Good Morning America” today. It’s time to unleash the seasoned diplomat on the fluff circuit. If McCain’s flaks can do it for him, the White House should do it for Rice.