- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2008

CHICAGO | After a marathon campaign that took them through every state and ended in victory, President-elect Barack Obama‘s staffers finally have a weekend off - sort of.

Obama aides said Friday that they expected to have their BlackBerrys turned off by Saturday, and the dissolving campaign said it anticipated no announcements because the Illinois Democrat wants his staff to get some well-earned rest.

Mr. Obama, who has been returning congratulatory calls from foreign leaders for several days, did not stray from his routine. He was working out at about 10:30 a.m. Saturday, according to a pool of reporters who follow him at all times. The president-elect also was expected to take his wife out for dinner in Chicago.

Both Mr. Obama and President Bush used their respective radio addresses to pledge work on a smooth transition of power come January, with Mr. Bush calling it a top priority for his administration’s remaining days.

“Our country faces economic challenges that will not pause to let a new president settle in,” he said in his weekly radio address. “This will also be America’s first wartime presidential transition in four decades. We’re in a struggle against violent extremists determined to attack us - and they would like nothing more than to exploit this period of change to harm the American people.”

Mr. Bush said the White House and federal agencies have been working for more than a year to make sure the next administration can get off to a quick start. Intelligence officials have briefed Mr. Obama, the Justice Department has approved security clearances for members of his transition staff, and in the coming weeks, administration officials will brief the Obama team on major policy issues, including the Iraq war and the ailing financial markets.

In his radio address, Mr. Obama emphasized the same points that he made Friday at his first postelection press conference, pledging swift action to deal with collapsing job numbers and a financial meltdown he called the “greatest economic challenge of our lifetime.”

“While we must recognize that we only have one president at a time and that President Bush is the leader of our government, I want to ensure that we hit the ground running on Jan. 20 because we don’t have a moment to lose,” Mr. Obama said in his radio address.

Many of Mr. Obama’s top people have already moved into transition jobs or will make the switch in the next few days, and a few said privately they still aren’t in a position to get much sleep because there is so much to do.

Then there is the celebrating. Many of the staffers in their 30s and younger have never experienced a victory. For some, this was their first campaign. Others worked for failed presidential hopefuls Sen. John Kerry in 2004 and Vice President Al Gore in 2000.

The elation was clear as they enjoyed their time in Chicago, partying with the friends they have made since the campaign began as a long-shot effort in January 2007.

Many aides also are working on getting the transition Web site, Change.gov, in order.

Obama staffers who still haven’t caught up on sleep have a lot to do - many of them are leaving swing states to return to normal lives, while others are boxing up the lives they built in Chicago and preparing to move to Washington where a transition headquarters will open Monday.

Mr. Obama and Michelle Obama will be in Washington on Monday as well, for a visit with President Bush at the White House; Mrs. Obama will begin scouting schools for their two daughters.

“I join the American people in wishing President-elect Obama every success,” Mr. Bush said in his address. “Laura and I wish the Obama family as much joy and happiness as our family has found in this wonderful house.”

Obama’s campaign manager and his director of advance both welcomed babies into the world this week.

David Plouffe’s wife, Olivia Morgan, had their second child just after the election; Advance Director Emmett Beliveau’s wife, Catherine, had their first child Monday. He was right back to work at the election night celebration in Chicago and staffed the first press conference of the president-elect Friday.

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