Hillary Clinton supporter to head DNC

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) will be the next head of the Democratic National Committee.

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The four-term lawmaker will succeed former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who announced his candidacy for retiring Sen. Jim Webb's (D-Va.) seat earlier in the day.

Vice President Biden made the announcement in an email to supporters on Tuesday.

"In selecting Debbie to lead our party, President Obama noted her tenacity, her strength, her fighting spirit and her ability to overcome adversity. President Obama expressed great admiration for her as a leader, and he was honored that she accepted this important challenge on behalf of the Democratic Party," he wrote.

In a statement, Wasserman Schultz said she was "honored" and "humbled" to be chosen.

"As we look toward 2012 in particular, I’m going to be working hard every day to guarantee that President Obama and Democratic candidates up and down the ballot are in the best position to win their races.  That was my promise to the President and that will be my promise to every single Democrat across the country," she said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a good friend of Wasserman Schultz, praised the decision.

"It is a source of pride to all of Debbie’s colleagues in the House Democratic Caucus that President Obama has recognized her considerable talents by naming her chair of the Democratic National Committee.  She’s a dynamic leader, a champion fundraiser, and an effective messenger on behalf of Democrats from coast-to-coast," Pelosi said in a statement.

Wasserman Schultz's appointment makes her the first female head of the DNC since Debra DeLee chaired the organization from 1994 to 1995.

Wasserman Schultz, who supported Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential campaign, will not give up her congressional seat when she takes the chairmanship, according to news reports.

She will have to give up her position with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where she was the head of incumbent retention efforts.

DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) congratulated Wasserman Schultz.

"President Obama has chosen a battle-tested leader, great communicator, and outstanding fundraiser who will help Democrats win the tough fights ahead. Debbie will ensure that the Democratic Party’s agenda continues to reflect the top priorities of the American people — creating jobs, responsibly reducing the deficit and strengthening the middle class," he said in a statement.

The choice to head the committee came down to Wasserman Schultz and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland -- both hailing from key presidential swing states, according to a Democratic source. The Florida congresswoman's proven fundraising prowess and familiarity with key Democratic official and donors helped make her a more popular choice in the eyes of top national Democrats, the source said.

In addition, Wasserman Schultz has an already established profile as a frequent cheerleader for the Obama administration and the president's agenda on cable and network news -- a prerequisite for serving as head of the national party.

She will face a tough tenure, which will include Obama's reelection effort, Democrats' attempt to retake the House and to hold on to the Senate.

In a tweet, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) congratulated Wasserman Schultz. In recent months Wasserman Schultz and Gillibrand had visited Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in the hospital where she was recovering.

"Congratulations to my friend Debbie Wasserman Schultz (@DWSTweets) on being named Chair of the #DNC. A great pick! @TheDemocrats," Gillibrand wrote.

-- Shane D'Aprile and Emily Goodin contributed.

— This post was last updated at 8:21 p.m.