Obama's Transition Focuses on Reassuring the Middle Class

So far, Obama and aides have gone out of their way to maintain support from the key group.

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It's all about reassurance.

Just about everything that President-elect Barack Obama does as he prepares to take office is designed to maintain the confidence of key constituencies that he will need to govern. Supporters say he is well aware that Americans are worried about the future and that they want to know that their new leader has the judgment and common sense to move the country in the right direction.

The latest examples came Sunday when key Obama advisers went out of their way to reassure middle-class voters—the most important constituency of all because they were a major part of Obama's winning coalition and they are feeling the economic pinch more than other groups—and others that the new president will keep his campaign promises to them.

Rahm Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff, told ABC that Obama will press ahead for a middle-class tax cut of about $1,000 per person that would apply to 95 percent of working Americans, as Obama pledged to do during the campaign. And Emanuel said the government needs to accelerate a congressional plan to provide $25 billion in low-interest loans to the Big Three automakers—Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. "They are an essential part of our economy and our industrial base," Emanuel said.

John Podesta, cochair of Obama's transition organization, said the new administration is reviewing President Bush's executive orders on oil and gas drilling, stem cell research, and other issues for possible reversal. The new administration's moves are likely to please environmentalists, stem cell research advocates, and other groups that have been critical of George W. Bush's policies. Podesta told Fox News that Obama will use his unilateral powers to get things done immediately without waiting for Congress to approve legislation. "There's a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we'll see the president do that," Podesta said.

Obama has established a pattern of promising bold action from the start. On the day after the election, he told a news conference in Chicago, "We are facing the greatest economic challenges of our lifetime, and we must act swiftly to resolve them." He said he favors an economic stimulus package to boost the economy and hopes Congress will pass it before he takes office. He backs extended unemployment benefits and an effort to reduce the number of foreclosures—all designed to help middle America during a very stressful time. Obama also said he would do all he could to save the American auto industry—a pledge echoed by Emanuel on Sunday.

Obama appears to be using Franklin Roosevelt as his model. After winning the 1932 election amid the Depression, Roosevelt promised to move immediately to improve the economy. In his inaugural address in 1933, FDR promised "action, and action now," and added, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

The president-elect and his wife, Michelle, visited President Bush and first lady Laura Bush today at the White House. Obama aides say the drop-by will combine the traditional courtesy call with substantive discussions between the president and the president-elect.

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