CHALLENGE – OBAMA VS CRISIS

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Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, shown with Barack Obama during the campaign, has accepted an offer to become White House chief of staff.

With the global economy on a knife’s edge, and labor figures on Friday very likely to show mounting American job losses, the financial markets, foreign leaders and even the Bush administration are looking to Mr. Obama for signs of how he will manage the crisis.

In responding, Mr. Obama must strike a delicate balance between cooperating with an unpopular president whose policies he campaigned to change, and the inclination to wait until he takes charge in two and a half months to prescribe his own remedies.

Adding to the pressure were steep drops in world financial markets on Thursday; the Dow Jones industrial average alone fell 443 points, or nearly 5 percent, compiling a two-day loss of nearly 1,000 points.

Moving quickly on the transition, Mr. Obama announced his selection of Representative Rahm Emanuel as his White House chief of staff. The president-elect said he had made that choice because Mr. Emanuel had “deep insights into the challenging economic issues that will be front and center for our administration.”

In a long list of forthcoming appointments, aides said, Mr. Obama is acting with the greatest urgency toward choosing a Treasury secretary and is said to be considering Lawrence H. Summers, who held the post during the Clinton administration, and Timothy F. Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

Even as Mr. Obama moved toward assuming power, he was building on his commanding victory on Tuesday. He added North Carolina to his column, according an analysis of the election returns by The New York Times, capping an extraordinary campaign in a state that had not voted for a Democrat for president since 1976.

The vote totals in North Carolina showed 49.9 percent for Mr. Obama and 49.5 percent for Senator John McCain, who was his Republican opponent. In his election to be the nation’s 44th president, Mr. Obama had 364 electoral votes to Mr. McCain’s 162, with 12 still to be decided — 11 in Missouri and one in Nebraska.

Mr. Obama announced that he would hold his first post-election news conference on Friday afternoon, but he remained largely out of sight on Thursday as a newly fortified Secret Service detail spirited him through Chicago. He arrived at the Federal Bureau of Investigation regional headquarters here to receive his first president’s daily brief from Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence.

The transfer of power took place on two fronts, with President Bush summoning members of the White House staff to the South Lawn, where he pledged to make an “unprecedented effort” to ensure a smooth transition in the first handover of the presidency since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mr. Bush said he would welcome Mr. Obama at the White House on Monday, the earliest such meeting after any recent presidential election.

“We face economic challenges that will not pause to let a new president settle in,” Mr. Bush said. “This will also be America’s first wartime transition in four decades.”

Mr. Obama, who has declined to attend the president’s global economic summit meeting on Nov. 15, said he looked forward to meeting with Mr. Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush, at what might be the only get-together by the president and his successor before Inauguration Day.

“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,” said Mr. Obama, adding that his wife, Michelle, will join him as he visits the Oval Office and the rest of their future residence. Their two daughters will not be taken out of school for the trip.

No incoming president in modern times has been so pressured to begin governing, in effect, before he is sworn into office. With that in mind, Mr. Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will meet on Friday with members of a new economic advisory board.

The group, assembled to offer wide-ranging advice, includes the billionaire investor Warren Buffett; Mr. Summers and his predecessor as Treasury secretary, Robert E. Rubin; Paul A. Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman; and Eric E. Schmidt, the chief executive of Google.

Participants will also include Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles and Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm of Michigan.

Ms. Granholm is a strong proponent of a stimulus package in the lame-duck Congressional session. Previewing her advice to Mr. Obama, she sent a letter on Thursday to Congressional leaders urging them to finance public infrastructure projects, extend unemployment and food stamp benefits and provide aid to states and more assistance for the troubled auto industry.

“Michigan, and every state, needs swift action and leadership from Washington to address the short term challenges our national and state economies are facing,” Ms. Granholm wrote.

While Mr. Obama is focusing heavily on the economy, advisers said he is working on all areas of his administration. He spent Thursday afternoon making and receiving calls, his time divided with the same precise scheduling he used during his highly disciplined presidential campaign.

In a makeshift office in Chicago, he also spoke to nine world leaders, including President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

Mr. Obama is trying to build his team amid the fevered speculation that typically grips Washington during times of transition about who will fill the new administration, where names are often floated with little bearing on the actual selection process.

For example, some in Washington focused on reports that Mr. Obama might name former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, a Republican who endorsed him before the election, as his education secretary. But one of Mr. Powell’s closest friends shot that idea down Thursday.

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