Obama Pressed on Cabinet, Policy

President-elect Barack Obama won the election with the proud and aggressive backing of a diverse array of interest groups -- many of them starved for influence during the eight years the Democrats have been out of power.

Now all he has to do is keep them all happy.

Obama's transition team has been inundated with a flurry of public and private advice on Cabinet appointments, legislative strategy and policy initiatives. Much of the input is coming from organizations that believe they contributed substantially to Obama's election, and they're counting on him to make good on his promises.

"You have to seize on these opportunities in history to do something big," said Jacki Schechner, national communications director for Health Care for America Now.

On Tuesday, the health care advocacy group launched a TV advertising campaign prodding the incoming administration and the new Congress to act on health care, even though Obama won't be inaugurated for two months.

"I'd like to think we're on the right track, but it doesn't hurt to poke a little and say, 'Hey, remember, we're here,'" Schechner said. "We can't wait any longer."

Many of the groups -- including those pushing health care expansions -- are asking Obama to deliver on campaign promises that he and his aides say he's intent on keeping.

But the unsolicited and sometimes conflicting advice represents an early leadership challenge to Obama, who is deep in the process of selecting his own team and settling on an initial legislative strategy at a time when the economy seems likely to subsume all other issues.

Obama also faces an additional challenge: He ran on a platform of independence from Washington interest groups and doesn't want to be seen as too beholden to any organizations.

The way he manages relationships with interest groups may be key to his success in Washington as he seeks to bring a new tone of bipartisan cooperation to enact an ambitious agenda.

"When you haven't controlled the administration for eight years, there's a lot of pent-up demand," said Allan Cigler, a political science professor at the University of Kansas who specializes in interest-group politics.

"There's going to be a heck of a lot of pressure," he said. "The operating word for Obama is going to be: Patience. Change is coming -- but hold on."

Obama May Hold Off on Cabinet Decisions Until After Thanksgiving

Obama transition officials are not commenting on specific requests or advice offered by outside groups. While transition activities have gone smoothly so far by all accounts, so far Obama has focused on White House staffing decisions before turning to his Cabinet, and despite indications of fast action, he may not have any of his Cabinet secretaries in place until after Thanksgiving.

The demands flowing into the Obama-Biden transition offices are too broad and diverse to all be satisfied. Several prominent Hispanic groups say New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson should be Obama's secretary of state, notwithstanding Obama's discussions with Sen. Hillary Clinton to fill that post.

Women's groups, meanwhile, are touting Clinton's possible appointment and say not enough female candidates are appearing on public short lists for Cabinet slots. At least one such group says Obama shouldn't choose Lawrence Summers to serve at Treasury, citing comments he made as Harvard's president that were perceived as belittling to women.

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