The Note: Thousand Day Stare

"Without Mr. Gates, Mr. Obama might want to tap a Republican for the State Department, perhaps including Senators Richard G. Lugar of Indiana or Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, advisers said. If Mr. Gates stays, some Democrats said, Senator John F. Kerry, the Democratic nominee who gave Mr. Obama the platform at the 2004 convention that vaulted him to national fame, is a leading choice to be secretary of state."

Might the "biggest celebrity in the world" not even be the biggest celebrity in his own Cabinet? "President-elect Barack Obama is strongly considering Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to head the Environmental Protection Agency, a Cabinet post," Politico's Mike Allen reports. "Obama's transition planners are weighing several other celebrity-level political stars for Cabinet posts, including retired Gen. Colin L. Powell for secretary of defense or education, the officials said. Kennedy's cousin, Caroline Kennedy, who helped Obama lead his vice presidential search, is being considered for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, although some Obama officials doubt she would take the post."

One key question -- was this race a one-time phenomenon, or a reordering of the political spectrum?

"Time will tell. But the possibility is there" of a realignment, per ABC polling director Gary Langer. "There are three reasons this election may represent more than simply a one-time protest against an unpopular incumbent and a poor economy. One is the youth vote; another, the possibility of partisan realignment; and the third, the role of race."

Soul-searching time on the other side: "A debate is emerging among competing GOP factions over who should pick up the Republican standard," Noam M. Levey writes in the Los Angeles Times. "Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose positions on abortion and gun rights helped energize the Republican base during the presidential campaign, has already been embraced by many social conservatives."

"Others, including champions of small government, see hope in Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal or Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Some in the shrinking moderate wing of the party are looking to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist," Levey writes. "Also contending for party leadership could be former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who both lost bids for the GOP presidential nomination this year, as well as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich."

What next? "Interviews with some of the leading figures in the party, many of them representing GOP hopes for a future restoration, answer that question with a consensus that Republicans need not undergo major ideological shifts," Politico's Jonathan Martin writes. "Instead, these governors, former governors, and members of Congress say the party must re-embrace its small government roots while striving to embrace the reform mantle and become relevant to the day-to-day concerns of average Americans."

"After a second election with big losses and no heir apparent, the Republican Party is looking for a messenger, House Republicans are girding for a leadership battle and relieved senators are standing pat after losing at least five seats," Stephen Dinan writes in the Washington Times.

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