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Washington The world is anxiously awaiting new ideas and fresh leadership from America's new president to deal with the economic crisis that has encircled the globe with sickening speed. Unemployment is climbing, the stock market has plummeted and businesses are teetering.
But for 77 days after the election, the problems will be George Bush's - and both Barack Obama and John McCain have signaled they will defer to him.
Both Obama and McCain understand the enormous pressure that the Election Day victor will be under to begin taking aggressive action virtually as soon as the votes are counted. But reality likely will prevent much of that from happening.
The president-elect will have the nation's affirmation but not any actual authority over government. Most politicians also would resist assuming public responsibility for tricky issues when someone else is still in charge, especially when that someone's approval ratings are nearly equal to the worst for any president since Gallup first starting compiling them 70 years ago.
Finally, there is the traditional protocol of respect in the U.S. political system, between presidents and former presidents and incoming presidents.
"He understands there is only one president," an Obama adviser said.
"There would be a lot of involvement, but that doesn't mean you'd replace the current president. Far from it," said Doug Holtz-Eakin, McCain's senior policy adviser.
"A president-elect could only make matters worse if there is any suggestion that he is moving in a direction different from the current president," said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a transition expert. "You can create a real lack of confidence here. And the more delicate the situation, and the situation we're in is very delicate, the more carefully you have to tread."
Bush's biggest final job is managing the massive $700 billion financial industry rescue package, which includes myriad tools aimed at shoring up firms' balance sheets so they will get credit flowing through the U.S. economy again. The plan's direction has changed several times as the administration scrambles to keep up with events.
The administration also is debating whether to intervene aggressively to help struggling automakers. And it is weighing whether to find a new way to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
Ornstein, whose transition expertise has been enlisted by the Bush White House, said officials there may even offer to take unpopular action before leaving office and take it off the new president's hands - if the president-elect's team wants it.
Ornstein said a smart president-elect would name his treasury secretary and economic team quickly, and perhaps hold high-profile talkfests on key, long-term issues, but not do much else.