The Note: The Hand-Off

When No. 43 hosts No. 44 Monday, the two men come to the White House riding competing historical crosscurrents -- and it's not just that one is coming and one is going.

The future of the Republican Party hinges on the argument over whether the GOP got where it is because it was growing too big or thinking too small.

The future of the Democratic Party hinges on the argument over whether President-Elect Barack Obama will get where he needs to by acting big or aiming small.

The challenge for Obama and the team he's putting together is in finding a Goldilocks balance, when plenty of folks want it hot, and plenty of others want it cold. He needs to deliver on his promises for change, while not eroding the promise of the broad change to politics his election meant to so many.

The new guy gets a big platform, and a bigger opportunity. Early on, he's conveying the sense of measured action, after months of stasis in the executive branch.

"The American people, right now, need help economically," incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told ABC's George Stephanopoulos Sunday on "This Week." "It is essential that we focus on the stress and strains on the middle class."

Bipartisanship, now: "The challenges are big enough that there's going to be an ability for people of both parties, as well as independents, to contribute ideas to help meet the challenges on health care, energy, tax reform, education," Emanuel said. "So that is the tone. That is the policy. And that is exactly how we're going to go forward."

But pacing is everything: "The debate between a big-bang strategy of pressing aggressively on multiple fronts versus a more pragmatic, step-by-step approach has flavored the discussion among Mr. Obama's transition advisers for months, even before his election," Peter Baker writes in the Sunday New York Times. "The tension between these strategies has been a recurring theme in the memorandums prepared for him on various issues, advisers said."

"The argument for an aggressive approach in the mold of Franklin D. Roosevelt or Lyndon B. Johnson is that health care, energy and education are all part of systemic economic problems and should be addressed comprehensively. But Democrats are discussing a hybrid strategy that would push for a bold economic program and also encompass other elements of Mr. Obama's campaign platform, even if larger goals are put off."

The pressure builds, already: "Saying Obama's decisive election victory amounts to a mandate, many of the president-elect's staunchest supporters, including labor leaders, are looking for strong, swift action on many of the sweeping proposals -- including reforming health care and increasing the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation -- that he pushed on the campaign trail," Michael A. Fletcher writes in The Washington Post. "But at the same time, Obama will be under pressure from fiscal conservatives and others to restrain spending, which could cause him to move slowly on his most ambitious plans."

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