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."

Can you smell the conflicts coming? "Interest groups are furiously drawing up wish lists for the incoming Obama administration, many of them hoping to cash in on the investments they made -- in volunteers, political support, and campaign contributions - in Obama's commanding win," The Boston Globe's Scott Helman writes. "But given the nature of Obama's victory, which was propelled more by a grass-roots army of millions than by traditional Democratic constituencies, is the president-elect really indebted to anybody?"

Quick action will raise howls from Republicans (who can't wait to accuse Obama of excessive partisanship).

But slow action risks eroding the special qualities of civic engagement that made an Obama administration possible.

"Timidity is a far greater danger than overreaching, simply because it's quite easy to be cautious," E.J. Dionne Jr. writes in his Washington Post column. "President-elect Obama can spend most of his time fretting warily about the shortcomings of past presidents and how to avoid their errors. Or he can think hopefully about truly successful presidents and how their daring changed the country. Is there any doubt as to which of these would more usefully engage his imagination?"

And why not do even more than you've promised, starting now? "Why wait until January to get started?" Lawrence Downs writes in a New York Times op-ed, calling for a national volunteer effort to start immediately.

"Mr. Obama has troops for the job: tens of thousands who spent months on the ground campaigning for him, becoming conversant in the issues and comfortable with approaching strangers to enlist their help," Downs writes. "It would be a shame to have poured all that idealism -- and money, don't forget -- merely into one man's election. Mr. Obama could set loose his army right now to start bringing about the change he promised -- by working for local nonprofit groups and causes."

Obama has a mandate, yes -- but not a blank check. And it will get harder when George W. Bush isn't going to be in Washington to kick around anymore.

"The election turned partly on what they did right, but also on what Republicans did wrong. And there is no assurance that Democrats will confront a similarly star-crossed opposition in elections to come," John Harwood writes in The New York Times.

"The country remains very evenly divided," said Harold Ickes, a former deputy chief of staff in the Clinton administration. "The lease on the office space is likely very short."

President Bush and President-Elect Obama share that office space Monday, with the Obamas set to arrive at the White House at 2 pm ET -- after Obama ran a campaign that harshly targeted Bush's leadership.

"On Monday, Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, may find himself conveniently forgetting those words -- or at least delicately stepping around the fact that he had said them," Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in The New York Times. "As the president-elect, he will be welcomed at the White House as an honored guest of its current occupant, Mr. Bush, for a meeting that could be as awkward as it is historic."

"Both parties have one eye on the history books, as an outgoing president airbrushes the epilogue and the arriving one prepares the prologue," Time's Nancy Gibbs writes.

As of this writing, Barack Obama has never set foot in the Oval Office, per the AP's Ben Feller. "Talk about making an entrance. In a sit-down discussion Monday with President Bush, the president-elect will get his first feel for the place where momentous decisions will soon fall to him."

Want more advice? "He was elected for one reason and one reason only, and that was to get the economy back in shape," O'Reilly told Diane Sawyer on ABC's "Good Morning America." "It's impossible to say what Barack Obama is going to do. He's getting a lot of pressure from the far left -- if he gives into that, it's going to be a disaster."

O'Reilly says the GOP's problem is leadership at the Republican National Committee - who's the chairman, he asks semi-rhetorically: "It could be a guy named Ziggy! We don't know who it is! We don't know who it is, OK?"

(It's Mike Duncan -- getting no love.)

Movement, on the personnel front: "This week President-Elect Obama could announce key staffers in his White House -- perhaps press secretary and White House counsel," ABC's Jake Tapper reported on "Good Morning America" Monday. "High-ranking economic and national security advisers will likely be introduced later, along with related Cabinet secretaries."

While in Washington, Michelle is scouting out schools.

No rush? "Barack Obama doesn't plan to name a Treasury secretary or fill other top positions on his economic team this week, people familiar with the matter said, as he tries to keep from being drawn into Bush administration decisions he may disagree with," Bloomberg's Robert Schmidt and Kristin Jensen write.

Movement, on the policy front: "On the eve of President-elect Barack Obama's visit to the White House, top aides prodded Congress to act quickly on new federal aid to the middle class, the devastated auto industry and people facing high energy bills," David Jackson writes for USA Today.

Getting those executive orders ready: "President-elect Barack Obama will likely use his executive powers after taking office to block new drilling leases on environmentally sensitive land in Utah and to allow federal funding of stem-cell research, putting a quick mark on policy making," Jonathan Weisman writes in the Wall Street Journal.

"The assessment is under way, aides said, but a full list of policies to be overturned will not be announced by Mr. Obama until he confers with new members of his cabinet," Jeff Zeleny writes in The New York Times.

On priority No. 1 -- a tough road, in politics and policy: "On Sunday, there were new signs of obstacles to more federal action on the economy in the waning days of the Bush administration despite the rosy talk of bipartisanship that followed Obama's historic election last week," Noam Levey writes for the Los Angeles Times. "The president-elect's newly appointed chief of staff rejected any deal with the White House that would link a controversial pending trade deal with a new stimulus package. And it was unclear whether Obama supported a new bid from congressional Democrats to boost assistance to the ailing U.S. auto industry."

How will this play with the many folks who are claiming victory? "Top advisers to Barack Obama sent a strong message yesterday that Republicans will play a vital role in his administration, even as looming questions over healthcare and the economy are poised to stir partisan debate -- and debate within the Democratic party -- about the best way forward," The Boston Globe's Farah Stockman and Bryan Bender report.

"Some of the key individuals he will rely upon to tackle the country's most serious challenges are holdovers from the current administration -- a trio of Bush appointees who will likely stay in place for at least the first year or two of Obama's presidency," The Washington Post's Alec MacGillis and Ann Scott Tyson report.

The three: Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke; Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, whose term expires in 2011.

Elsewhere in the administration -- Chicago comes to Washington. "With Obama's victory on Tuesday, 'FOB' is the new acronym for the close-knit corps of Chicago neighbors, graduate school classmates, pickup basketball teammates and family friends of the incoming president," Peter Nicholas writes in the Chicago Tribune.

"The Chicago Crew Washington will be the Windy City on the Potomac; the locals will bring a pragmatic style that sees any problem as a municipal one writ large," Newsweek's Howard Fineman writes.

Access? "President-elect Barack Obama says moneyed interests won't have an inside track in his White House, but six of the 15 people he named to his transition team are top fundraisers," Fredreka Schouten writes for USA Today. "They include Julius Genachowski, a former technology and news media executive and an Obama classmate at Harvard Law who raised more than $500,000 for the campaign, and Federico Peña, a two-time Cabinet secretary in the Clinton administration who is a managing partner in a global investment firm. He collected more than $50,000."

Other new challenges: "Now the president-elect must decide how to handle the media as he shifts from campaign mode to commander in chief. If he is overly influenced by editorial criticism, he could be thrown off course in ways that were rarely evident during his highly disciplined campaign. But if Obama tunes out the press, he could find himself isolated in a White House bubble," Howard Kurtz writes in The Washington Post.

Vice-President Elect Joe Biden got booed in Philadelphia Sunday (on a rough night for his Eagles).

But practice your smiles: "Harnessing Biden's considerable talents and containing his flaws will be an ongoing challenge for Obama. But Democratic insiders say the appointment of tough-guy Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff -- and the administration's need to forge a governing coalition that includes some Republicans -- has brought Biden's upcoming role more clearly into focus: He'll play the good cop," Politico's Glenn Thrush writes.

Gov. Sarah Palin does her first post-election sit-down interview Monday, with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren.

Then she does "Today" on Tuesday -- with Sen. John McCain on Leno on Veterans Day, Tuesday night.

As for the Republicans -- no shortage of prescriptions for a party seeking a new path forward.

"This was a good Democratic year, but it is still a center-right country," Bill Kristol writes in his New York Times column (and find out why he's scared of the new puppy). "Conservatives and the Republican Party will have a real chance for a comeback -- unless the skills of the new president turn what was primarily an anti-Bush vote into the basis for a new liberal governing era. . . . It's good for conservatism that conservatives will have to develop refreshed ideas and regenerated political skills to succeed in the age of Obama."

(Dissecting the McCain campaign: "There was a serious rift in the week before the election, and the cause of the split boils down to one word: Kristol," Scott Horton writes for The Daily Beast. "As one McCain adviser put it to me: 'In the last six weeks there was a remarkable echo. You could listen to arguments made by folks inside of the campaign who were close to Bill Kristol and then open up The New York Times and read them in Kristol's columns.' ")

Rich Lowry wants the Republican Party to find the center again: "Connecting better on the economy and middle-class pocketbook and quality-of-life issues will go a long way toward alleviating the troubles the GOP had in reaching moderates, suburbanites and even Latinos this year. It will require refreshing the conservative policy arsenal with innovative proposals that will look more like McCain's health-care plan than the old tried and true, and it will mean engaging on concerns such as congestion and college tuition that have traditionally been beneath conservative notice," Lowry writes in a Sunday Washington Post op-ed.

Lowry continues: "It is indeed, as conservatives have been insisting in recent days, a center-right country. The question is how to appeal to the center again."

J.C. Watts is worried: "It seems that every demographic is trending away from the Republicans except for white men. That has been a very reliable demographic for Republicans, yet in Virginia, my current state of residence and a historically reliable red state, that group favored John McCain over Barack Obama by only a 50-48 margin," Watts writes in a Las Vegas Review-Journal column. "Regardless of what one thinks of Obama's policies, this was a victory of magnificent proportion. If we're being honest with ourselves, it would have been hard for some to believe 35, 25, or even 10 years ago, that an American who happens to be black could ascend to the presidency."

In case it matters anymore: Louis Farrakhan, Jeremiah Wright, and William Ayers are back. "I feel freer today to say the things that are in my heart," Farrakhan said Sunday in Chicago, per ABC's Jake Tapper.

"Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan said Sunday that God's divine plan for the world explains why President-elect Barack Obama won the election and that God will make sure Obama has the vision needed to guide the country through current economic and social woes," Emily Achenbaum writes in the Chicago Tribune.

Why quit while he's ahead? "After bringing at least two dozen new Democrats to the House in Tuesday's elections, Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) has agreed to try to duplicate that achievement in 2010 as chair of the caucus's campaign arm. He also will take on an added role, coordinating policy decisions between the House and President-elect Barack Obama's administration," The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes.

Big battle in House leadership, as Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., challenges Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich.: "A fight is intensifying over whether Democratic Rep. John Dingell should continue to head the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, fraying unity among House Democrats soon after they widened their majority in the chamber," Greg Hitt writes in The Wall Street Journal. "The tiff threatens to distract House Democrats from implementing the policy goals of President-elect Barack Obama and their party."

Fire up the blogs: "Senate Democratic leaders plan to cut Republican committee seats to reflect the new balance of power in the upper chamber, according to Democratic aides," The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports. "Republicans will lose at least one seat on most committees and may lose as many as two on some of the larger panels, such as the powerful Appropriations committee."

Three Senate seats remain unresolved, with votes still being counted (and re-counted) in Minnesota and Alaska, plus a run-off in Georgia.

Does Obama put himself on the line this early? "One of the big question marks in Georgia's ongoing U.S. Senate campaign is how much President-elect Barack Obama will get involved," Jim Tharpe reports in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Democrat Jim Martin desperately wants Obama to come here to boost Martin's campaign against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who has already secured a promise from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to visit the state on Chambliss' behalf."

It's not just McCain, either: The first front in the battle for 2012 appears likely to run through Georgia. "Sen. Saxby Chambliss' campaign has been in touch with a fleet of prominent Republicans -- including Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani -- to have them campaign for the senator's reelection over the next four weeks," per ABC News.

Too early? (Are you kidding?) "Two potential candidates will be in Iowa before month's end, multiple prospects -- almost certainly including Sarah Palin -- will make high-profile appearances this week at the Republican Governors Association meeting, and Newt Gingrich's name has already been floated in a Bob Novak column," Politico's Jonathan Martin writes.

Newt Gingrich for RNC chairman? "Newt Gingrich has let it be known that, if Republicans want him, the former U.S House speaker is willing to serve as chairman of the national party and lead it out of the wilderness it's blundered into," per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "The question is whether the 168-member Republican National Committee is open to the match."

Phil Singer makes the case for and against Newt: No. 1 in the "for" column: "He is an idea machine." No. 4 in the "against" column: "Bobby Jindal."

Is Mitt leaning against another run? "I'd be surprised if Mitt ever ran again for president. . . . I sure don't think it was the best experience of his life," longtime Romney adviser Charley Manning said on a Boston talk-radio show, per Seth Gitell. Manning cited the disappointment Romney experienced in hearing the level of anti-Mormon bias in the Republican primaries. "There are other things he can do," Manning asserted.

Secret Service code names for the new folks in town, per the Chicago Tribune:

President-elect Barack Obama: Renegade

Michelle Obama: Renaissance

Vice President-elect Joe Biden: Celtic

Jill Biden: Capri

The Kicker:

"I was reminded of the dangerous isolation that power can bring, and I appreciated the wisdom of America's founding fathers in designing a system to keep power in check." -- Barack Obama, writing in "The Audacity of Hope" about his first meeting with President Bush.

"Just give me the ball." -- Obama, in an e-mail to campaign political director Patrick Gaspard, when Gaspard wrote him that he's "more clutch than Michael Jordan," per The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza.

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Hope Ditto contributed to this report.

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