Morning Roundup

Thursday Morning: The Transition Begins; GOP Regrouping Efforts; And Finger-Pointing Galore

Good morning! It's two days after the election, 75 days before inauguration, and the transition to an Obama administration has begun clanking into action.

Yesterday the Obama forces released a list of transition staff — headed by Valerie Jarrett, Pete Rouse, and John Podesta (who says he will not be taking a permanent position at the White House). Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel says he is mulling Obama's offer to serve as White House Chief of Staff. And Politico's Mike Allen reports that Robert Gibbs will be the White House press secretary. This is the first wartime transition since 1968, and it comes in the middle of very uncertain economic times for the nation and the world (the latest bad tidings: the Nikkei dropped 6.5% today and Goldman Sachs is laying off 3200 employees). The transition also comes after terrorist attacks on U.S. soil during the first year in office of each of the last two Presidents (the first WTC bombing in 1993 and the attacks of September 11, 2001). The Obama administration cannot afford to dawdle as the Clinton folks did. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports this morning that handovers at government agencies are traditionally awkward, especially in a party change. But because of this year's especially high stakes, about 100 members of Obama and McCain's teams were given top security clearances so that briefings could get under way immediately after election day.

In election remainders, we're still awaiting the final results from North Carolina, which Obama appears to have won, and Missouri, where McCain has an apparent advantage. One electoral vote also remains at stake in the Omaha area of Nebraska (which, like Maine, subdivides its EVs). The current tally is 349-162. On the Senate side, the Dems are up 5 seats to 56, and races in Georgia (likely runoff), Minnesota (recount), Oregon (leaning Dem), and Alaska (narrow lead for GOP) remain uncalled. And with results still pending from seven House races, the Democrats have gained a net of 19 seats, bringing them to 251.

The GOP is reeling after Tuesday's tough defeats, and attempts to regroup are already under way. A group of prominent conservatives are meeting today in Virginia to strategize about raising their stature within the Republican party. South Carolina party chair Katon Dawson is planning a meeting of RNC members in Myrtle Beach later this month. And the Republican Governors Association holds its annual meeting in Miami next week. One key indication about where the GOP is headed will come from its selection of a party chair. Mike Duncan, who was elected to the post last year, may try to stay in office. The Fix takes a look at a few other potential options (Nussle? Greer? Anuzis?) and what they might mean. There is also some brewing drama in the Republican leadership ranks in Congress, with Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) asking his colleagues to keep him in power and Eric Cantor (R-VA) seemingly angling for Roy Blunt's (R-MO) ouster as Minority Whip. And Ambinder wonders if Tom Coburn (R-OK) is making a gambit for Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) post as the Senate Minority Leader.

And of course the finger-pointing continues among erstwhile members of the McCain campaign staff, with most of the new revelations uncovering tensions between the McCain and Palin forces. This morning's New York Times seconds much of the reporting from Newsweek's juicy web piece yesterday — including the bits about Palin's spending sprees and her hopes to address the crowd at the Biltmore Tuesday. NYT's Elisabeth Bumiller adds that Palin did not prepare for her ill-fated interview with Katie Couric, and says aides suspected top adviser Randy Scheunemann of leaking tales of campaign discord to columnist Bill Kristol. Advisers told Bumiller that "by [election night], Ms. Palin was in only infrequent contact with Mr. McCain". One aide described the McCain-Palin relationship as "difficult". Hmm. The perils of dual-maverick campaigning. But Bumiller also points to this perspective-adding piece of campaign postmortem wisdom, courtesy of an interview John McCain gave back in July:

"Every book I've read about a campaign is that the one that won, it was a perfect and beautifully run campaign with geniuses running it and incredible messaging, etcetera," Mr. McCain said then. "And always the one that lost, 'Oh, completely screwed up, too much infighting, bad people, etcetera.' So if I win, I believe that historians will say, 'Way to go, he fine-tuned that campaign, and he got the right people in the right place and as the campaign grew, he gave them more responsibility.' If I lose," people will say, " 'That campaign, always in disarray.' "

Case in point: Renee Montagne's interview this morning with former McCain strategist John Weaver, who was ousted in the campaign's shakeup in summer 2007. His take on McCain's advertising strategy: "it was as if the country was speaking economic English, and the campaign was speaking angry Greek."

And finally, the AJC asks readers to weigh in on one of the most pressing issues for the new First Family: what kind of puppy should Sasha and Malia Obama get? The family has spoken in the past of rescuing a shelter dog. Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle says if the Obamas adopt a homeless pup it will send "a real message of hope and change for all the dogs in shelters waiting for a loving home."



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