WASHINGTON (CNN) – House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, who will step down from his leadership post in the next Congress, said Thursday that President-elect Obama appears “much better prepared” heading into his first term than President Clinton had been.
The Missouri Republican - who served as Majority Whip when Republicans controlled the chamber - joked with reporters that he was relieved to be relinquishing his leadership role. "I can tell you more problems about members of Congress that you ever wanted to hear," he said, adding "Ten years of asking people things they don't want to do is a long time." But Blunt also sounded nostalgic about leaving leadership. “I will miss it all. …It is fun to be in the middle of every fight every day," he said.
Blunt admitted he was impressed with President-elect Barack Obama's campaign "in terms of discipline, planning, and lack of mistakes." He added, "I think he's much better prepared for this in terms as a manager that President Clinton may have been."
Thursday afternoon, House GOP leader John Boehner – who has said he intends to keep his leadership post - said he had asked conservative Indiana Republican Mike Pence to run for the post of Republican Conference Chairman. Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas - who told his colleagues earlier this week that he was running for the Chairman position - is now taking himself out of the race, according to his spokesman.
Pence ran against Boehner for minority leader in 2006, but lost by a substantial margin.
(CNN) - President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden will meet with their Transition Economic Advisory Board in Chicago Friday, followed by the pair's first official press conference since winning the White House, the transition team announced Thursday.
The members of the advisory board - which include former Treasry Secretaries Lawrence Summers and Robert Rubin, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, and billionaire businessman Warren Buffett - are listed after the jump.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – As administration transition teams around Washington crank into high gear, Pentagon officials are insisting that the complicated transfer of power from the Bush administration to the Obama administration - the first during a time of war since Vietnam - will go smoothly.
Teams in both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' office, as well as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, have been working on the transition for months now, according to Pentagon officials.
"We are preparing to make this as smooth a transition as we can," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said earlier this week.
While officials say the transition is in good hands, little is being said about what discussions will occur between the Pentagon teams and President-elect Barack Obama's transition teams when they begin showing up within days or weeks.
"There is a recognition that given that we are a nation at war, that energy and effort [should] be sufficiently placed to ensure that we don't drop any balls, because national security and supporting our fielded forces that are engaged in combat is of paramount importance to this country," Whitman explained.
(CNN) – President-elect Barack Obama and President Bush are set to meet in the White House on Monday, a get-together both men say they are looking forward to.
“Michelle and I look forward to meeting with President Bush and the First Lady on Monday to begin the process of a smooth, effective transition," Obama said in a statement. "I thank him for reaching out in the spirit of bipartisanship that will be required to meet the many challenges we face as a nation."
Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said the two men will sit down in the Oval Office.
"The President and Mrs. Bush look forward to welcoming President-elect and Mrs. Obama to the White House on Monday afternoon. The Bushes will greet the Obamas, and then the President will visit with the President-elect in the Oval Office," she said. "Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Obama will meet in and tour the Private Residence. We understand that the Obama children will not be accompanying them on this visit, but we very much look forward to meeting them."
(CNN) – Barack Obama launched the official government Web site for the presidential transition on Thursday, giving it a look and feel that suggests the new president will utilize the Internet to a much greater degree than his predecessor.
The site is a slightly more formal-looking incarnation of Obama’s campaign web site that features a blue-shaded presidential seal and a countdown clock to the Inauguration on January 20. There are biographies not only of Obama and Joe Biden, but also the directors of his transition team: John Podesta, Valerie Jarrett and Pete Rouse. The web site outlines Obama’s policy agenda, on issues from Iraq to social security to urban policy.
While the site lacks the innovative community organizing tools that helped propel the Illinois senator to the presidency, one section of the site does ask for user-generated content, asking Americans to submit stories about “what this campaign and this election means to you” and “where President-Elect Obama should lead this country.”
There is a transition blog, which at the moment only features a video of Obama’s Tuesday victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park.
One link on the site is sure to get a flood of clicks: the “Jobs” section.
“All staff appointments chosen for this administration will be committed to fulfilling Obama’s campaign promises, to rebuilding our government, and to serving the American people again,” the site says.
GEORGETOWN, Delaware (CNN) – As he headed back to Delaware to ceremonially “bury the hatchet” Thursday as part of a state tradition, Vice President-elect Joe Biden told reporters that John McCain was “still my friend.”
He also said that he and President-elect Obama had begun meeting daily to “flesh out the transition” – and did not deny speculation that Sen. John Kerry could be under consideration for a position in the new administration.
Last week, Biden had told reporters he was not sure if the friendship could be saved. “I don’t know, I hope [the friendship] is intact, John and I have not had a chance to speak,” Biden said. “I hope [it’s] intact because I still admire him, I still like him. ... I believe when this is over, win or lose, John and I are likely to be around in one form or another, in one job or another, and I hope, my hope is we can work together.”
The Delaware native said he hasn’t spoken to McCain – his friend of over three decades – since the Democratic ticket’s victory. Asked what he’d say to McCain and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin if they were on hand, Biden seemed to reach out to his Senate colleague, but did not seem as eager to make peace with the Arizona senator’s running mate.
“I’d say John, we’re still friends,” he said, adding “I don’t know Sarah Palin. I’m not being a wiseguy, you know, it’s over. I mean, I think it’s pretty remarkable, for the all the ups and downs, [a] pretty remarkable run for her. I mean, here’s a woman who is out of Wasilla as a mayor and then governor for two years. I think it’s pretty remarkable, pretty remarkable.
“But John’s still my friend. I say, John, I need you. We need you. This is an opportunity. We really mean what we said.... Barack and I met yesterday, and we’ll be meeting every day for a while until we flesh out this cabinet and everybody else. But we really mean it. We’ve got to reach out, man. You can’t get from here to there with just Democrats, you can’t do it. And I, and I’m…well anyway, when I talk to John, that is, that’s my, that’s what I’m going to tell him.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A new report from American University’s Center for the Study of the American Electorate concludes that voter turnout in Tuesday’s election was the same in percentage terms as it was four years ago - or at most has risen by less than 1 percent.
Click here to read the entire report.
The report released Thursday estimates that between 126.5 and 128.5 million Americans cast ballots in the presidential election earlier this week. Those figures represent 60.7 percent or, at most, 61.7 percent of those eligible to vote in the country.
“A downturn in the number and percentage of Republican voters going to the polls seemed to be the primary explanation for the lower than predicted turnout,” the report said. Compared to 2004, Republican turnout declined by 1.3 percentage points to 28.7 percent, while Democratic turnout increased by 2.6 points from 28.7 percent in 2004 to 31.3 percent in 2008.
“Many people were fooled (including this student of politics although less so than many others) by this year’s increase in registration (more than 10 million added to the rolls), citizens’ willingness to stand for hours even in inclement weather to vote early, the likely rise in youth and African American voting, and the extensive grassroots organizing network of the Obama campaign into believing that turnout would be substantially higher than in 2004,” Curtis Gans, the center’s director, said in the report. “But we failed to realize that the registration increase was driven by Democratic and independent registration and that the long lines at the polls were mostly populated by Democrats.”
(CNN) - It was an election night like none other, in every sense of the phrase. In addition to the obvious - the selection of the nation's first black president - Tuesday night's coverage on CNN showcased groundbreaking technology.
"I want you to watch what we're about to do," CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer told viewers early in the evening's coverage, "because you've never seen anything like this on television."
And he was right. Cue CNN political correspondent Jessica Yellin.
"Hi Wolf!" said Yellin, waving to Blitzer as she stood a few feet in front of him in the network's New York City studios. Or at least, that's the way it appeared at first glance.
In reality, Yellin - a correspondent who had been covering Sen. Barack Obama's campaign - was at the now president-elect's mega-rally along the lakefront in Chicago, Illinois, more than 700 miles away from CNN's Election Center in New York.
It looked like a scene straight out of "Star Wars." Here was Yellin, partially translucent with a glowing blue haze around her, appearing to materialize in thin air. She even referenced the classic movie on her own, saying, "It's like I follow in the tradition of Princess Leia. It's something else."
(CNN) - Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a former Clinton administration aide, has accepted the position of President-elect Obama's chief of staff, a Democratic aide tells CNN.
House Minority Leader John Boehner criticized the choice of Emanuel - the man known for his tough-minded approach and widely credited with engineering large congressional gains for Democrats in the 2006 elections.
“This is an ironic choice for a President-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center," Boehner said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Jim Manley, a senior communications advisor to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, praised the choice.
"An excellent choice. Rahm knows the Hill," he told CNN. "And he knows the White House. He is a brilliant strategic thinker and someone who knows how to get things done."
(CNN) - McCain’s presidential bid has ended, but the fireworks from inside his former campaign continue to make news: evidence is mounting that senior adviser Randy Scheunemann wasn’t fired, as several internal sources had suggested, but the target of a deliberate whispering campaign.
Top McCain adviser Mark Salter told CNN Thursday that Scheunemann, the campaign’s senior foreign policy adviser, was not fired.
Campaign manager Rick Davis denied a report he had fired Scheunemann after determining that he had been in direct contact with journalists spreading "disinformation" about campaign aides, including Nicolle Wallace and other officials.
"My impression is there is some silly score settling being done," Davis told CNN. "Randy was not fired."
Scheunemann himself said sources who said he had been dismissed were lying.
"I was not fired,” he said Thursday. “Anybody who says so is either lying or delusional and is certainly a whack job."