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US President-elect Barack Obama meets with former Republican presidential candidate Arizona Senator John McCain at Obama's transition offices in Chicago. Obama extended a bipartisan olive branch by meeting his vanquished Republican rival John McCain Monday, but a cabinet job was not expected to be on offer

US President-elect Barack Obama meets with former Republican presidential candidate Arizona Senator John McCain at Obama

CHICAGO (AFP) – President-elect Barack Obama extended a bipartisan olive branch by meeting his vanquished Republican rival John McCain Monday, but a cabinet job was not expected to be on offer.

The meeting in Chicago between the victor of the November 4 election and the Arizona senator put substance to Obama’s promise of reaching out to old opponents as he crafts an expansive agenda for the next four years.

Before reporters were ushered out of the meeting at Obama’s transition headquarters, the president-elect anticipated a “good conversation about how we can work together to fix up the country.”

Obama said he would also “give thanks to Senator McCain for his outstanding service.”

Update: First word is that the meeting between Obama and McCain has been wrapped up.

According to reports, Obama’s transition team is conducting an in-depth vetting of the finances of his former primary rival Hillary Clinton and her husband Bill Clinton with a view to naming her his secretary of state.

Source: AFP

Senator Barack Obama, greeting President Bush at the White House in February 2005.

Senator Barack Obama, greeting President Bush at the White House in February 2005.

WASHINGTON — For nearly two years on the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama rarely missed a chance to take a swipe at President Bush. The name George W. Bush invariably followed the phrase “failed policies” in Mr. Obama’s speeches. “When George Bush steps down,” Mr. Obama once declared, “the world is going to breathe a sigh of relief.”

Ronald and Nancy Reagan, right, and President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in 1980.
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. 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.

In a time-honored tradition of American democracy, Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, will receive a tour of their new home from Mr. Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush. Then the men will split off to begin the formal transfer of power, all the more urgent this year because of the financial crisis. Mr. Obama has said he expects a “substantive conversation between myself and the president.”

But there will also be a subtext to the session: the personal chemistry between two leaders whose worldviews are miles apart. The ritual visit is occurring uncommonly early this year, less than a week after Mr. Obama handily defeated Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was the Republican nominee and Mr. Bush’s preferred candidate. Emotions may still be raw.

“I’m not going to anticipate problems,” Mr. Obama said Friday at his first news conference as president-elect. “I’m going to go in there with a spirit of bipartisanship.”

Mr. Bush, the president-elect, visiting with President Bill Clinton at the White House in 2000.

Mr. Bush, the president-elect, visiting with President Bill Clinton at the White House in 2000.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama have had little chance to forge the kind of personal relationship that might prompt a smooth handoff. In his book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Mr. Obama wrote less than admiringly of his first face-to-face encounter with the president, at a White House breakfast for new senators after the 2004 election, where Mr. Bush outlined his second-term agenda.

“The president’s eyes became fixed; his voice took on the agitated, rapid tone of someone neither accustomed to nor welcoming interruption; his easy affability was replaced by an almost messianic certainty,” Mr. Obama wrote. “As I watched my mostly Republican Senate colleagues hang on his every word, I was reminded of the dangerous isolation that power can bring.”

Mr. Bush, meanwhile, was privately critical of Mr. Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary race, telling friends that he thought Mr. Obama’s chief rival for the party’s nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, was “more experienced and more ready to be president,” said one friend of Mr. Bush’s who had such a conversation. But Mr. Obama ran a good campaign — Mr. Bush is someone who appreciates that — and the election last week might have eased his doubts.

“President Bush is a realist,” said this friend, who spoke anonymously to disclose his private conversation with the president. “He has a way of coming to grips with things and moving on. The people have spoken.”

For Mr. Bush, the meeting has a distinct upside: the chance to take the edge off his unpopularity. Democrats are already praising him as gracious for his post-election speech in the Rose Garden, where he said it would be a “stirring sight” to see the Obama family move into the White House. The meeting on Monday will give Mr. Bush an opportunity to produce lasting images of that graciousness.

“The important thing he gets out of it,” the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said, “is a public perception of him as somebody who is leaving in classy fashion, by opening his house and his information and his government. He wants to leave on a note that says he did everything possible to help this next president run the country.”

But such meetings can be fraught with political and personal danger. On Inauguration Day in 2001, President Bill Clinton invited Mr. Bush for coffee before the ceremony but kept his ever-punctual successor waiting for 10 minutes, recalled Mr. Bush’s first press secretary, Ari Fleischer. Even more uncomfortable was the presence of Vice President Al Gore, who lost the presidential election to Mr. Bush after a bitterly contested Florida recount.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan, right, and President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in 1980.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan, right, and President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in 1980.

“Clinton was his normal gregarious self, but Vice President Gore was not a happy camper,” Mr. Fleischer said. “I think it was a very sour moment for him, and you could kind of feel it in the room.”

In 1980, after President Jimmy Carter lost his re-election bid to Ronald Reagan, the two met at the White House. Mr. Carter came away feeling that Mr. Reagan had not been paying attention.

“President Carter was kind of taken aback by the meeting with Reagan,” said Jody Powell, Mr. Carter’s former press secretary. “There was a point where he sort of wandered off and asked questions that seemed to be only tangentially related to what they were talking about.”

And though the Carter White House had offered to share information about efforts to end the Iranian hostage crisis, Mr. Powell said, “My impression was that they wanted us to handle it without them being involved enough to have to take responsibility for whatever happened.”

So, too, may it be with Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama over the economy. Mr. Bush has invited world leaders to Washington on Friday and Saturday for an international conference on the economy. Mr. Obama and his team have declined to attend. Mr. Obama supports a new economic stimulus package; the Bush White House is cool to that idea.

The White House says Mr. Obama has been there seven times during Mr. Bush’s tenure, most recently in September for a much-publicized meeting on the $700 billion financial rescue package. That session blew up when House Republicans, backed by Mr. McCain, balked at the plan. Curiously enough, Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush were on the same side.

Perhaps Mr. Obama will remind Mr. Bush of that when he sees him on Monday. Or perhaps he will remind Mr. Bush of another encounter, at a White House reception in January 2005 when, according to Mr. Obama’s book, the affable president offered a dollop of hand sanitizer — “Not wanting to seem unhygienic,” Mr. Obama wrote, “I took a squirt” — and then pulled him aside for some unsolicited political advice.

“You’ve got a bright future, very bright,” Mr. Bush began, by Mr. Obama’s account. The president went on to warn the new senator that his celebrity status could hurt him: “Everybody’ll be waiting for you to slip, know what I mean? So watch yourself.”

nyt-logoprinter

Festivities are underway at the Arizona Biltmore hotel, the same spot where John McCain celebrated his Super Tuesday victories that led to his party’s nomination.

McCain 2008
Supporters watch early returns as they attend an election night rally for John McCain in Phoenix on Tuesday. (AP)

As of 9 p.m. EST, the Arizona senator remained at his condominium in Phoenix. The sprawling hotel was flooded with thousands of well-dressed supporters from all over the country.

With Obama’s electoral vote count widening, McCain’s supporters remained faithful. “We’re confident the `Mac is Back,’ as they say,” supporter Don Baker told the Associated Press.

It’s not hard to find where the speech will be delivered. Massive flood lights from the lawn beam up into the sky. The campaign’s signature star and “Country First” logo adorn everything in sight.

The location has particular significant for McCain–it is where he celebrated his marriage to wife, Cindy, 28 years ago.

But even the people who are here won’t necessarily get to see the speech in person. The majority of the audience will be in a huge ballroom, watching McCain’s remarks on a massive television screen. In the interim, a band is playing and the drinks are flowing.

McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, arrived in Arizona later than scheduled. Her staff and traveling press arrived around 8 p.m. EST, looking worn from the long flight to and from Alaska. Palin has returned to her home state to cast her ballot before joining McCain in Arizona.

Source: WSJ

Sen. Barack Obama speaks at a campaign rally October 21, 2008 in Miami, Florida.

Sen. Barack Obama speaks at a campaign rally October 21, 2008 in Miami, Florida.

Huge war chest enables Democrat to eye Ariz., Ga., S.C., and N.D.

CHICAGO – What do states like Georgia, South Carolina, North Dakota and even Arizona have in common?

They’re all reach states that the Obama campaign now believes could be in play.

Thanks in part to an astonishing $150 million take in September, the Democrat has his eyes on some unlikely prizes, including McCain’s own home turf.

“Our strategy all along has been to expand the playing field,” said David Plouffe, Obama’s meticulous and cautious campaign manager. “People thought we were crazy, but it is paying off.”

Granted, he was listing these off the top of his head, and didn’t reveal the campaign’s actual state-by-state committments, but still — it’s news nonetheless.

“We’re in a pretty good position right now,” concedes Plouffe. “We’re competing in and for states no one thought would be in play.”

It appears to be part of a larger campaign strategy to win big with the Electoral College — and not settle for a narrow November victory.

Spread the wealth?
What else will come of this major moolah? Well, we know one thing, it’s not going to the other Democrats eager to maximize the party’s majorities in Congress.

On a visit to Obama headquarters here in Chicago, I asked Plouffe about the “spread the wealth” idea.

The Obama campaign has “all we can handle,” he said.

Rather than funnel cash directly to Senate and House candidates — which Plouffe said would be legal — the campaign argues that its ground-level organizing work in the states on behalf of all Democrats is worth millions, and more than makes up for any cash donations the campaign might make.

Plouffe cited North Carolina as an example.

“We have done extensive registration and turn out work, and that is paying off for everyone,” he said. In the Tar Heel state, he said, the grassroots work has helped Democrat Kay Hagan pull ahead of Sen. Liddy Dole.

“That wouldn’t be happened without our effort there,” Plouffe said.

Less than giddy at Obama HQ
Given the state of the race, might think that the atmosphere would be giddy in Obama headquarters on Michigan Ave. in downtown Chicago.

Not exactly.

When I walked in for my first visit in months the atmosphere was the same as it was then: quiet, purposeful, and no-nonsense.

On what looked like a vast open trading floor, the twenty- and thirty-somethings went about their business, none of them in coats and ties, many of them looking like graduate students, would-be lawyers, and MBAs crashing a collaborative research project.

Lessons from New Hampshire
On an easel outside the entrance, the first person to work that morning — a retired school administrator named Mary Shepard Hughes — had written an inspiration and an a warning: “TWO SHORT WEEKS. TWO LITTLE WORDS: NEW HAMPSHIRE.”

In a campaign that has, from the start, functioned with incredible smoothness overall, the unexpected primary loss of New Hampshire to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton still rankles — and serves as a cautionary tale.

But the campaign took away lessons from that setback. “Hillary was attacking us pretty hard and we didn’t respond enough, or quickly enough,” Plouffe told me. “We learned that you’ve got to deal with everything.”

Keeping all the cash on hand is one way to make sure they can respond to anything McCain might throw out in the last two weeks.

The Obama campaign has returned fire — hard — on everything from Bill Ayers to taxes.

“They remember how John Kerry was ‘swift-boated’ and they want the cash on hand to prevent that this time,” said a top Obama fundraiser here. “They’re not going to make the Kerry mistake.”

Source: MSNBC

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