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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Obama Will Answer Robert Redford Question

November 5, 2008

In the 1972 movie classic, The Candidate, Robert Redford plays the part of Bill McKay, a young idealistic and charasmatic candidate for the U.S. Senate - who also has no chance of winning.

Halfway through the movie candidate McKay - in desperation - turns control of his campaign over to a slick group of professional political consultants who begin calling all the shots. McKay ultimately wins the election in a stunning upset over the fictional entrenched and savvy incumbent.

But the last scene in the movie steals the show. Unnerved by his victory, McKay (Redford) searches out the campaign’s senior consultant played by Peter Boyle amid the huge and enthusiastic victory celebration and asks one simple question: "What do we do now?"

So it is that we have a new President-Elect - a newcomer and unlikely winner - Barrack Obama - but someone with great promise and endless potential. His election was the stuff of movie legend - every bit as impressive as he won in virtually every region of the country. He will be sworn into office in January amid tremendous support and high expectations.

Many are anxiously awaiting the steps he will now take to implement his change for a different kind of America - one that puts partisanship aside and challenges every American. His vision is to raise the standards of the vast middle-class - and everyone is anxious to know whom exactly that involves.

Obama got off to a good start last night with a very thoughtful victory speech at Grant Park in Chicago. He was Kennedy-esque and obviously wanted to advance the country by encompassing everyone - even those who did not vote for him. "I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too," he said at one point.

Obama, however, may have taken one step backwards with his selection of Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel to the position of White House Chief of Staff. Some find the appointment troubling because the Chief of Staff position is historically the President-elect’s most trusted political advisor - a political soulmate if you will. This person not only oversees the entire White House staff but they must share the President’s political philosophy.

Obama doesn’t want there to be red states or blue states - he wants there to be a United States. The Emanuel appointment, however, sends a signal of partisanship. Congressman Emanuel was an intense infighter in the Clinton White House and was Chairman of the politically charged Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006. Republicans universally regard Emanuel as one of the most rabid partisan Democrats inside the beltway, and he has never been regarded as one who reaches across the aisle to work with Republicans.

Republicans will give Obama a 180-day "honeymoon" period to get his staff in place and provide his new appointments with instructions and directions on how he wants them to interface with the opposition party - thus it’s still possible everyone will be pleasantly surprised with Emanuel.

Meanwhile, Republicans are now looking for a new direction for the party – especially after being solidly defeated in both the 2006 and 2008 elections. Most political observers believe Republicans need to return to their conservative roots - mainly in the areas of less government and less federal spending.

John McCain was eloquent in defeat last night and let it be known that he wants to work with President-elect Obama. While many will soon analyze what went wrong in the McCain campaign - the truth is he did as well as anyone could have - and all the credit should be given to the Obama campaign and to Obama himself.

As for Governor Sarah Palin - she will return to Alaska and only time will determine whether she seeks national office again. Most Republicans believe her political star remains bright and the hopes are that she will return to center stage with renewed experience and perspective sometime in the future.

For now, the focus of the country is on President-elect Obama and the people are waiting for him alone to answer the question once asked by Robert Redford in the movie The Candidate -- What do we do now?