Nov. 7, 2008 -- The balloons had barely settled in Grant Park before President-elect Barack Obama got down to business and began selecting members of his Cabinet and transition team.
On Jan. 21, Obama will inherit a nation that is in financial turmoil and waging two wars overseas -- making a quick, smooth transition imperative. He has already named Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., as his chief of staff and set up meetings with an economic advisory board.
How the president-elect handles the transition period can chart the course for the beginning of his term. Some believe President Bill Clinton handicapped himself in his first year by not moving quickly enough during the transition period. Clinton did not select his first chief of staff, Leon Panetta, until just days before inauguration.
But Obama appears to be avoiding the same mistakes by making quick appointments. Here are the official Obama appointments and other potential candidates for the new administration.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., has accepted the position of White House chief of staff. A veteran of the Clinton administration and a close political ally of Obama's from Chicago, Emanuel brings experience, knowledge of Capitol Hill and a sense of duty. Obama reportedly told associates, per ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, that he believes Emanuel will "have his back."
Selecting a veteran like Emanuel has its pros and cons. Obama pledged to bring to Washington a "new kind of politics," but also does not want to appear naive and unprepared for the presidency. Emanuel served six and a half years under Clinton and has been a member of Congress for four terms.
Emanuel has moved up through the Congressional ranks and knows how to work Washington. While these are certainly qualifications for his new job, they also may have posed some reservations in him accepting the position. Emmanuel was said to have ambitions to some day be Speaker of the House. He also has young children, and cited his family as a big consideration when making decision.
"I have to make a decision about my family. I've been in the White House," Emanuel WLS-TV, the ABC News Chicago. "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. "
Obama chief campaign strategist David Axelrod will almost certainly be appointed a White House senior advisor. The Chicago native has known the president-elect since 1993, longer than anyone else in Obama's inner circle. He is widely credited for helping Obama's political ascent and has been on the forefront of Obama's campaign.
In his acceptance speech, Obama said Axelrod has been "a partner with me every step of the way." The Chicago native is not new to the political scene. He has advised several Democratic candidates since 1985 and is reportedly close friends with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
In a profile of Axelrod, the Los Angeles Times cited a description of Axelrod as "Obama's answer to Karl Rove and the most powerful political consultant not on a coast." Axelrod has said he became interested in politics at the age of five, when he watched John F. Kennedy become president.
Rumors are flying that Robert Gibbs, one of Obama's top aides, will be tapped for the position of White House press secretary. Gibbs helped lead the campaign's communication team as the senior strategist for communications and message. While the White House position has not been officially offered or accepted, many believe Gibbs would be the right man for the job.
The 37-year-old Alabama native is a regular on cable news and the morning talk show circuit. Despite the occasional sparring with "Fox and Friends" host Sean Hannity, the lighthearted Gibbs is said to have a good rapport with reporters.
The potential White House podium dweller has been a longtime Obama loyalist and a constant force on the trail ever since the president-elect first ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004. Prior to working for Obama, Gibbs was an aide to Sen. John Kerry in 2003. He left the Kerry campaign before Kerry clinched the 2004 presidential nomination.
The White House press secretary essentially serves as the administration's voice, and frequent television exposure makes this person the outward face of the White House to many people in the world.
Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., has said he is not interested in taking a Cabinet position, but he has had a history of working with Democrats and is the top Republican in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Lugar introduced a bipartisan U.S. aid plan with Vice President-Elect Joe Biden that called for $1.5 billion per year in non-military economy spending to support economic development in Pakistan.
Lugar's likely contenders include Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who has expressed interest in the position.
Secretary of Defense Bob Gates is expected to keep his job, with Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as the backup contender. Obama has indicated he wants a bipartisan cabinet, and keeping Gates in his position would avert criticism of partisanship.
Gates was appointed by President Bush in 2006 following Donald Rumsfeld's departure. Although prior to that position, Gates served as president of Texas A&M University, he has spent a lifetime in intelligence and military, having worked as an advisor to Ronald Reagan and CIA director from 1991 to 1993 under President George Bush.
Hagel served with Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Hagel would bring with him extensive experience in international relations and a more bipartisan approach. He accompanied Obama to the Middle East during his campaign.
In one of the most anticipated and hotly contested positions, the new secretary of Treasury will inherit the worst financial crisis in decades and the job of guiding the $700 billion bailout package.
The oldest of the pack, Paul Volcker, 81, served as Federal Reserve chairman under presidents Carter and Reagan. He has been criticized for driving up interest rates during his time in office but also is known for cutting inflation. One of Obama's top economic advisors during the campaign, Volcker has been a staunch proponent of government regulation.
Timothy Geithner has been one of the key figures in the bailout plans. As president of the Federal Bank of New York, he led the $29 billion buyout loan to Bear Stearns and brokered the deal that led to its acquisition by JP Morgan Chase.
Award-winning economist Lawrence Summers served as treasury secretary in the Clinton administration and then went on to become president of Harvard. He drew worldwide attention for his comments that biological differences may partly explain the dearth of women among the very highest-achieving scientists, a controversy that led to his resignation. Summers also is serving as Obama's economic advisor and was chief economist at the World Bank.
John Podesta heads up Obama's transition team and was another name being tossed around in the rumor mill as a possible Obama administration official. Podesta served as White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton from October 1998 until the end of his term and is currently the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress.
The Chicago native tried to quell rumors that he would join the Obama White House in an internal memo to Center for American Progress Action Fund colleagues this week, in which he reportedly said he would return to the CAPAF after the transition period. Podesta's memo however, hasn't completely silenced speculation. Many cite his experience not only in the White House, but his numerous advising roles on Capitol Hill as solid qualifications for an Obama administration.
Obama's top foreign policy adviser,Susan Rice, is another potential White House administration official. Her name been tossed around by the press as a possible secretary of state or national security adviser.
Rice served as assistant secretary of state in Bill Clinton's administration and was a senior adviser for national security affairs for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign.
Another Clinton Cabinet member, Federico Peña, was one of Obama's transportation advisers during the campaign and is part of his transition team. Peña was secretary of transportation from 1993 to 1997 and secretary of energy from 1997 to 1998. Peña is credited with bringing in Hispanic votes for Obama, particularly in Colorado, where he is from.
The second-term Arizona governor Janet Napolitano is an adviser to Barack Obama's transition team. Napolitano, an early supporter of the president-elect, is a popular Democrat in Republican-leaning Arizona, which went in the election for the native son, Obama opponent John McCain.
She pushed to limit greenhouse emissions and the Washington Post has announced her as one of the contenders for the position of attorney general. Napolitano was Arizona's first female attorney general prior to her appointment as governor. She has been outspoken on immigration issues and has been an outspoken advocate of more federal government's responsibility in border control issues.