After the debate: Romney's busy first day

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To start, Day 1 of the Romney presidency has in some way already occurred, and federal law now mandates that this happen. Like candidates before him, many important decisions are already being made about staffing, priorities, and organization by Romney’s pre-election transition team called “The Readiness Project”. They work daily at a C Street office on the complex planning for victory and, in compliance with the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010, key officials have begun the screening clearance process to begin receiving security briefings long before the Inauguration.

If victorious, on Day 1 after the election, Romney will first name his chief of staff to begin organizing his White House. It was Bill Clinton's failure to prioritize White House operations that experts list as the key mistake made in the days and weeks after his November 1992 win. Barack Obama, who was lauded for his effective transition, named Rahm Emanuel chief of staff two days after his win. Speculation has it that Romney would choose Mike Leavitt, former Governor of Utah and Secretary of Health and Human Services, who is currently directing The Readiness Project. 

Two, Romney will announce a transition policy which will spell-out how he will fund the transition, who will be permitted to work on the transition, and how he will solicit advice and recommendations. Again, Obama announced a plan on November 11, 2008, that forbade lobbyists from donating to and banned lobbyists from lobbying while on working his transition. The Obama team set up an online way for organizations to submit recommendation memos and arrange for meetings with the transition team. These memos were then publicly available on a website. This open process made a bold statement about the level of transparency that the Obama team sought to promote. Romney’s team may already be drafting the guidelines to release this policy soon after the election, and will consider the extent to which they value transparency.

Third, Romney will announce dozens of individuals who will work, most as volunteers, on agency review teams (President-Elect Obama made this announcement on November 13, 2008). These teams will hold meetings with incumbents at each agency and gather information for briefing books for those newly appointed to prepare for confirmation hearings. History suggests this work is largely for show as few ever read these bureaucratic tomes. Many who are appointed to the transition teams simply want consideration for their own appointments at the White House or elsewhere. If you want a position in a Romney administration, a seat on one of these teams is a good place to start.

Finally, Romney will begin to name his Cabinet. Some presidents-elect let each appointment trickle out through November and December – President-Elect George H. W. Bush named his first just two days after the election and his last in mid-January – whereas others make appointments en masse – President-Elect Richard Nixon named his entire 12-person Cabinet on December 11, 1968.

We don’t know yet what The Readiness Project is doing exactly; they have been cagey with discussing the details of their planning. We do, however, have every reason to believe that they are looking to the successful transitions of Presidents Bush 43 and Obama for guidance on how to execute an efficient and effective transition starting on Day 1.

Brown is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. He is the author of the recent book, Lobbying the New President: Interests in Transition, published by Routledge.