Rhodes has been a great fill-in. But it was always understood that he was just a fill-in. Everybody knew Tony wouldn't stay drunk forever & come back. Everybody knew Tony wouldn't stay dead forever but pull a Spock & come back. But now Tony's up against the most vile enemy he has ever known. A man whose malevolent schemes against him are about to come to fruition. Behold the evil schemer known as FRACTION! (Bet you thought I was going to say Mandarin.) This is the battle, true believers, that Stark CANNOT win! And it is my belief that Fraction means to write Tony out permanently! And probably Rhodey too! So whoever does replace Tony may well be Iron Man from now on if Fraction can somehow rig it so that other writers can't undo his changes. On the subject, I don't think it'll be Pepper. If for no other reason than the title of the book. March, Jenkins, & Walker are acceptable due to training, experience, or technical skills (Walker's made his own suits too.) or some combination thereof. But Fraction has laid in no set-up for any of these guys, only Johnson. And remember what I said in another thread. I believe Fraction wants to OWN the character so that he's free to define him as he sees fit without having to worry about us fanboys pestering him with "Well, he wouldn't do that because of what said in issue such-&-such!" With Johnson he has practically a clean slate.
You make a good point. However, at this point, since most of the Iron Man fans have left the building, there is probably little that can be done.