Obama meeting Friday with economic advisers

CHICAGO -- President-elect Barack Obama was tackling the struggling U.S. economy as his first order of business, meeting Friday with leaders of business, government and academia before he holds his first press conference since the election.

Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden were to meet with 17 members of their transition economic advisory board. Members include former presidential Cabinet officials and executives from Xerox Corp., Time Warner Inc., Google Inc. and the Hyatt hotel company. Investor Warren Buffett was participating by telephone.

Friday's press conference will be Obama's first public appearance since he trounced Republican John McCain in Tuesday's election to become America's first black president.

Exit polls from the election showed that the economy was far and away the top issue for voters. Obama has been using the time for private meetings with his transition team, receiving congratulatory phone calls from U.S. allies and intelligence briefings, and making decisions about who will help run his government.

His first choice, for White House chief of staff, was Rahm Emanuel, a fiery partisan unafraid of breaking glass and hurting feelings. The choice of Emanuel is a significant departure from the soft-spoken, low-key aides that "No-Drama Obama" surrounded himself with during the campaign. And transition chief John Podesta, like Emanuel, is a former top aide to President Bill Clinton and a tough partisan infighter, though less bombastic than the new chief of staff.

The selections are telling for Obama, who campaigned as a nontraditional, almost "post-partisan" newcomer. People close to him say the selections show he is aware of his strengths and weaknesses, and knows what he needs to be successful as he shifts from campaigning to governing.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, planned to visit the White House on Monday at President Bush's invitation.

Obama planned to stay home through the weekend, with a blackout on news announcements so that he and his staff can rest after the grueling campaign and the rush of Tuesday night's victory. He is planning a family getaway to Hawaii in December before they move to the White House, and to honor his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who died Sunday at her home there.

Obama, who bested Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, has made it clear he will rely heavily on veterans of her husband's eight-year administration, the only Democratic presidency in the past 28 years.

Podesta was Bill Clinton's chief of staff, and several other former Clinton aides are on Obama's short lists for key jobs, Democratic officials say. Some helped write a large briefing book on how to govern, assembled under Podesta's supervision.

Obama also is certain to bring to the White House a cadre of longtime aides like senior adviser David Axelrod and press secretary Robert Gibbs. Both have worked closely with Obama since he ran for the Senate in 2004.

A steady stream of world leaders have congratulated Obama, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian leader's statement marked the first time a commander in chief from that country has offered such wishes to a U.S. president-elect since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran and the U.S. have had no formal diplomatic relations since 1979 and the hostage drama, when militant Iranian students held 52 Americans captive 444 days.

Obama spoke by telephone with other world leaders including Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

On Thursday, The Associated Press declared Obama the winner in North Carolina, a symbolic triumph in a state that hadn't voted for a Democrat since 1976. That brings Obama's electoral vote total to 364 — nearly 100 more than necessary to win the White House. Missouri was the only state that remained too close to call.