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Government & Politics

Presidential Transition Will Present a Challenge for Either Candidate

By Mike Unger

Regardless of who wins the presidency on Nov. 4, there won’t be much time for a celebration.

With only 77 days separating the election and inauguration, the first challenge of the victor’s presidency—the transition—will be one of his most daunting, and it will start almost immediately.

“It’s incredibly important that these brief 77 days be used very well,” said Scott Lilley, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The Washington think tank co-sponsored an Oct. 15 conference, “Presidential Transitions: From Campaigning to Governing,” with AU’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies (CCPS).

“It’s that period that will possibly define the presidency,” Lilley said. “It’s in the interest of all Americans that the next president use that time [wisely].”

The conference’s three sessions examined structuring a White House Legislative Affairs Office, the first 100 days of a new administration, and working with a polarized Congress.

Gary Andres served as deputy assistant for legislative affairs to President George H.W. Bush. He cited the tone the new administration sets in its initial days as being critical to the transition process.

“A week or so after the election there’s going to be a series of high profile meetings with congressional leaders,” he said. “Who’s going to be invited to those things? It’s important to realize that Congress has an agenda too.”

Patrick Griffin is the academic director for the Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute at the School of Public Affairs. He served in the Clinton administration as assistant to the president for legislative affairs. His advice to the winner: don’t be delusional in how you interpret the election results.

“Know what the opposition thinks about why they lost the election,” he said. “When everybody’s preparing for the opening act, you’ve got to be preparing for act two.”

The panel was hosted by SPA professor James Thurber, director of CCPS.

“The best possibility for a president is a landslide,” he said. “We haven’t had that very many times, therefore you have to worry about reaching out to the other party. You have to act quickly. I don’t think there’s such things as mandates, and I don’t think there’s a honeymoon anymore.”

To watch the conference, go to