The Note: Thousand Day Stare

What Rahm Emanuel knows as he prepares to take the most important job in the Obama White House:

1. Mandates and honeymoons sound really nice until you start counting votes.

2. There's nothing' in a thumpin' that can't be served right back.

3. John Dingell and Dave Obey didn't need Barack Obama to become chairmen -- and don't need him to stay chairmen, either.

4. It was easier to keep the Rahm pace before he had kids.

5. He'd rather be on this team than any other [bleepin'] team right now.

6. Not taking the job he's been offered would cause a bigger public snafu for his friend than anything he went through during the course of his campaign.

The early moves in the transition period may say more about the kind of president Obama will be than anything he did or said during the campaign.

(And, in reverse, the early words pouring out of what was once the McCain-Palin campaign tells us more about what kind of operation that really was -- and that there's at least a few someones still gunning for Sarah Palin.)

In turning to Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., for chief of staff, Obama is signaling that he wants to get things done, not make friends, and not let fears of public perceptions guide his early choices.

When Obama and Vice-President Elect Joe Biden get their first round of full-on security briefings on Thursday, they'll be continuing to learn far more than they say. (Still no press conference scheduled for of our newly elected ticket -- though there's at least that possibility on Thursday)

The biggest theme sounding around Chicago now: After a campaign that leaned on the audacity to hope, this needs to be a transition that avoids the unreality of hype. (All those tears, all this emotion, all the expectations -- this is energy that needs somewhere to go.)

Starting with the lack of fireworks Tuesday night -- and a speech that was somewhere between restrained and solemn -- and up through the decision to avoid the public for a full day Wednesday, our president-elect wants the starry-eyed dreamers to get to work.

"President-elect Barack Obama has begun an effort to tamp down what his aides fear are unusually high expectations among his supporters, and will remind Americans regularly throughout the transition that the nation's challenges are substantial and will take time to address," Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg write in The New York Times.

"While the energy of his supporters could be a tremendous political asset as Mr. Obama works to enact his agenda after taking office in January, his aides said they were looking to temper hopes that he would be able to solve the nation's problems or fully reverse Bush administration policies quickly and easily, especially given the prospect of a deep and long-lasting recession," they report. "They said they would discourage the traditional yardstick for measuring the accomplishments of a new president -- the first 100 days. Mr. Obama told an interviewer toward the end of his campaign that it was more appropriate to talk about the first 1,000 days."

"[Obama's] temperament as a candidate suggests a president not given to highs and lows, and his campaign foreshadows a White House more orderly than those of the two most recent Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter," Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post.

"The debate that is coming will be over how large his early agenda will be and how quickly he will move to try to enact it," Balz writes. "One adviser noted that there is a difference between being bold and being rash, suggesting that, as president, Obama will set big goals for the country but with a realistic timetable."

Karl Rove gives credit where it's do (the Davids Plouffe and Axelrod) but sound a warning: "Many Americans were drawn to Mr. Obama because they saw in him what they wanted to see. He became a large vessel into which voters placed their hopes," Rove writes in his Wall Street Journal column. "This can lead to disappointment and regret. What of the woman who, in the closing days of the campaign, rejoiced that Mr. Obama would pay for her gas and take care of her mortgage, tasks that no president can shoulder?"

Leading the charge: a friend about much has been and will be said, little that would use words like "hope," "dream," and "nice."

"To many Democrats, including some who are close to both men, Mr. Obama's choice of Mr. Emanuel to run the White House seems at odds with the atmosphere Mr. Obama enforced at his Chicago campaign headquarters. The motto there was 'No drama with Obama," in contrast with the backbiting and shakeups in rivals' campaigns,' Jackie Calmes writes in The New York Times.

"Some Democrats say former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who is as laid-back as Mr. Emanuel is brusque, would be a better fit. Several have privately expressed or relayed reservations to Mr. Obama about Mr. Emanuel. To one Mr. Obama replied, 'Rahm's grown a lot.' "

"In turning to Mr. Emanuel and [John] Podesta, Mr. Obama sought out two of the hardest-hitting veterans of President Bill Clinton's administration, known for their deep Washington experience, savvy and no-holds-barred approach to politics," The New York Times' Peter Baker and Jeff Zeleny report. "Neither is considered a practitioner of the 'new politics' that Mr. Obama promised on the campaign trail to bring Republicans and Democrats together, suggesting that the cool and conciliatory new president is determined to demonstrate toughness from the beginning."

Wait until the nation starts hearing Rahm stories: "Rep. Rahm Emanuel might not appear to be the obvious choice for White House chief of staff for a president-elect who speaks eloquently of setting aside partisan differences and bringing the country together," the Chicago Tribune's Naftali Bendavid writes. "The Illinois congressman, after all, is best known as something of a Democratic political assassin. From his days as a top aide to President Clinton to his recent role leading the Democrats to a House majority, Emanuel has relentlessly attacked his foes and gone ruthlessly after anyone who stood in his way."

Geoff Earle, in the New York Post: "H.R. Haldeman, White House chief of staff to President Richard Nixon, famously said, 'Every president needs a son of a bitch, and I am Nixon's.' And many observers believe Emanuel fits nicely in that slot."

Unless -- he can't really say no now, can he? "I used to joke in the White House that on Fridays, I would say: it's two more workdays till Monday. When I was in the White House, I didn't have children. I do know something about the White House, and I do have children now. I have a family," Emanuel tells WLS-TV, ABC's Chicago affiliate. "I've got a lot to weigh: my commitment to my country, my commitment to public service and why I got into this, as well as what I want to do as a parent."

Could he really turn it down? "While it was not clear he had accepted, a rejection would amount to an unlikely public snub of the new president-elect within hours of an electoral college landslide," the AP's David Espo and Nedra Pickler write.

Key point, on why this all might take a while: "With hundreds of jobs to fill and only 10 weeks until Inauguration Day, Obama and his transition team confronted a formidable task complicated by his anti-lobbyist campaign rhetoric," Espo and Pickler write.

More key players, per ABC's Jake Tapper: "ABC News has learned that three of those [key transition team] members will be Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, former Clinton Transportation and Energy Secretary Federico Peña, and former Clinton Commerce Secretary William Daley."

Time to move: "Advisors said that Obama would announce several White House staff appointments today. A priority will be filling two Cabinet positions: Homeland Security and Treasury. With the economy foundering and national security a perennial worry, Obama wants those posts filled as soon as mid-November," The Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas and Tom Hamburger report.

The next move: "Obama aides said hiring a chief of staff would be followed by critical economic appointments, especially that of Treasury secretary," Jonathan Weisman and Deborah Solomon write in The Wall Street Journal. "They said contenders include Lawrence Summers, a Harvard University economist who served in the same position in the Clinton administration; New York Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy Geithner; former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker; and Robert Rubin, another former Clinton Treasury secretary and director and senior counselor of Citigroup Inc."

"Amid new indications of a weakening economy, the president-elect must now decide how to insert himself into the most pressing issues facing the nation over the next 75 days, particularly the global economic summit that President Bush will convene in Washington on Nov. 15 and a new economic stimulus package being pushed by Democrats when a lame-duck session of Congress begins days later," Anne E. Kornblut and David Cho write for The Washington Post.

Other than Summers or Geithner, "Obama could also draw from his core economic team, which includes former Treasury secretary Robert E. Rubin, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker, and Laura D'Andrea Tyson, who chaired Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers," they write.

Stocking the Cabinet: "In the national security arena, much depends on whether Mr. Obama decides to ask Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to stay to demonstrate bipartisanship. If Mr. Obama decides against it, or Mr. Gates turns him down, Democrats see former Deputy Defense Secretary John J. Hamre and former Navy Secretary Richard J. Danzig as two candidates for the Pentagon," Baker and Zeleny write in the Times.

"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.

Fight to watch: "[House Republicans] are willing to spare their leader, Ohio Rep. John A. Boehner. His No. 2, Minority Whip Roy Blunt, might not be so lucky, however, as it appears he will avoid an inevitable challenge from his top deputy, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor," Politico's Patrick O'Connor writes. "Beyond that, there was only chaos. And finger-pointing."

Does the comeback start Thursday? "20 leading conservatives will gather Thursday at the home of Media Research Center chairman Brent Bozell," The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reports.

One Democratic battle brewing: "Less than a day after firming their grip on the House, Democrats geared up for an internal battle royal as Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (Calif.) launched a bid to wrest the gavel of the Energy and Commerce Committee from Rep. John Dingell (Mich.)," Roll Call's Tory Newmyer and Paul Singer report.

It could have been worse for the GOP: "Just about all the conservative Republicans in traditionally red territory held seats needed by the GOP to avoid a blowout: Senators Roger Wicker in Mississippi, Mitch McConnell in Kentucky and, probably, Saxby Chambliss in Georgia, along with House members John Shadegg in Arizona, Cynthia Lummis in Wyoming and the Diaz-Balart brothers in Florida," Time's Michael Grunwald writes. "It looks like graft-convicted Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska will somehow retain his seat long enough to get expelled, and his ethically and temperamentally challenged porkmate, Don Young, was reelected as well."

Picking up some pieces . . . The Oregonian calls the Senate race for Democrat Jeff Merkley, but the votes are still being counted, and there's been no concession or declaration of victory.

In Minnesota, after the AP "uncalled" (great new term) the race it had handed to Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, a recount in on tap. "Sen. Norm Coleman's narrow lead over DFL challenger Al Franken in the U.S. Senate race narrowed even more Wednesday, guaranteeing a recount that would be the state's biggest ever and could stretch well into next month," per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Alaskans like their guys: "While a Democratic wave swept the rest of the nation, not even FBI investigations could keep Alaska's Republican Congressional delegation from holding leads the day after the election," per the Anchorage Daily News' Sean Cockerham and Tom Kizzia.

No final word yet out of Georgia, either. Democrats are plus-5 in the Senate, so far, and plus-19 an counting in the House.

"The outcome of four closely contested Senate races remained undecided, as congressional Democrats began initial planning for the agenda of President-elect Barack Obama," Greg Hitt writes in The Wall Street Journal. "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that boosting the shaky economy will be a top priority when the 111th Congress convenes in January, especially if lawmakers don't act on a stimulus package this month. The California Democrat added that a range of Democratic priorities, from reducing the nation's dependence on foreign oil to widening access to health care, especially for children, will also be advanced next year."

"Democratic leaders are tamping down on expectations for rapid change and trying to signal they will place a calm hand on the nation's tiller," Mike Soraghan writes for The Hill.

Filling the Obama seat: Gov. Rod Blagojevich, D-Ill., "said some suitable Obama replacements included Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), Veteran Affairs secretary Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) but cautioned against 'reading anything into' his naming of those people," per the Chicago Sun-Times.

On the presidential side, still waiting on final word out of North Carolina, but a growing sense: "On Wednesday, Tar Heels began considering what it means that Barack Obama seems to have won North Carolina, along with her sister Southern states Virginia and Florida. Not since 1976 has a Democratic presidential candidate carried this state," Rob Christensen writes for the News & Observer.

As for Palin -- did we not even know the worst of it? "One senior aide said that Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family -- clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus," Newsweek reports. "According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill. Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement."

"Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast," one aide told Newsweek.

And one last great moment from the team of mavericks: "Palin asked to speak along with McCain at his Arizona concession speech Tuesday night, but campaign strategist Steve Schmidt vetoed the request," Newsweek reports.

So much love lost: "As a top adviser in Senator John McCain's now-imploded campaign tells the story, it was bad enough that Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska unwittingly scheduled, and then took, a prank telephone call from a Canadian comedian posing as the president of France. Far worse, the adviser said, she failed to inform her ticketmate about her rogue diplomacy," Elisabeth Bumiller writes in The New York Times.

"As a senior adviser in the Palin campaign tells the story, the charge is absurd. The call had been on Ms. Palin's schedule for three days and she should not have been faulted if the McCain campaign was too clueless to notice."

More on the clothing: "The advisers described the McCain campaign as incredulous about the shopping spree and said Republican National Committee lawyers were likely to go to Alaska to conduct an inventory and try to account for all that was spent," Bumiller writes.

It gets worse, on other fronts: Fox News' Carl Cameron reported Wednesday that Palin didn't know which countries were in NAFTA, and she "didn't understand that Africa was a continent, rather than a series, a country just in itself."

The fallout, per CNN's Dana Bash: "Randy Scheunemann, a senior foreign policy adviser to John McCain, was fired from the Arizona senator's campaign last week for what one aide called 'trashing' the campaign staff, three senior McCain advisers tell CNN."

Said Palin on Wednesday: "If I cost John McCain even one vote, I'm sorry about that because John McCain, I believe, is the American hero. . . . I had believed that it was his time."

"To many Republicans, Palin is not a loser and not a handicap. She is the future of the Republican Party," ABC's Kate Snow and Imtiyaz Delawala report. Said Palin: "2012 sounds like years away. What will we be doing then? Enrolling Trig in kindergarten."

"Plenty of other people are thinking about Palin's political future, however, and the debate about her will be part of the emerging struggle over the direction of the Republican Party after election losses and as it faces the end of the Bush presidency," William M. Welch reports for USA Today.

The morning after, for McCain: "With the election behind him and no transition to plan, Sen. John McCain woke up early Wednesday morning and walked to Starbucks for his morning coffee -- alone," Jill Zuckman reports for the Chicago Tribune. "That he didn't have to ride in a motorcade with lights flashing to get a cup of coffee made him incredibly happy."

The Kicker:

"I don't consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, 'You know, this is a stupid question, but let me . . . answer it.' " -- Barack Obama, fretting about the presidential debates, as quoted by Newsweek.

"There is absolutely no diva in me." -- Sarah Palin, exiting the national stage (for a while).

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