WASHINGTON – Americans will elect not only a president on Tuesday, but also his huge team of aides, advisers and bureaucrats who will help the winner run the federal government for the next four years.
Clearly a John McCain presidency would be more conservative than a Barack Obama presidency. Beyond the ideological and partisan divides, however, are differences in style, tone and pedigree that would distinguish one administration from the other.
Obama, if he wins, appears likely to draw several of his top aides, including some Cabinet secretaries, from three key sources: Democratic governors midway through their second and final terms in office; former top appointees of Bill Clinton's administration; and political pros from Obama's hometown of Chicago.
McCain, a former Navy officer whose father and grandfather were admirals, is likely to rely more heavily on current and retired military officials. He probably would draw more people from the corporate world, and somewhat fewer people from think tanks and academia, than would Obama, according to people close to the candidates.
Numerous lists of potential appointees are circulating in Washington, Chicago and Arizona. But Democratic and GOP officials warn that both nominees are fully focused on Tuesday's finish line and probably have made no firm personnel decisions about the administration they hope to run.
People close to Obama believe he would offer jobs to some or all of a quartet of Democratic governors who campaigned hard for him, even if a couple of them opposed him initially.
Two, who have thrived in Republican-leaning states — Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas — backed Obama from the start. Napolitano is seen as a possible attorney general. Sebelius is mentioned as a possible secretary of Education, Commerce, Energy or Health and Human Services.
Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania is seen as a possible pick for the top Energy or Transportation posts. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who sought the presidential nomination himself, is thought to be on a short list for secretary of state.
The four would have to give up the last two years of their eight-year terms as governor, something that might give them pause.
Former Democratic governors who might become Obama appointees include Tom Vilsack of Iowa, mentioned as a possible Agriculture secretary.
Obama already has turned to a former Clinton aide, John Podesta, to head his transition planning. Other former Clinton appointees said to be in the running for prominent jobs in an Obama administration include Susan Rice, who was assistant secretary of state for African Affairs; James Steinberg, who was deputy national security adviser; Gregory Craig, who was one of Clinton's top lawyers; economic advisers Gene Sperling and Laura Tyson; and former treasury secretaries Larry Summers and Robert Rubin.
Top Obama campaign aides David Axelrod and David Plouffe of Chicago would be probable picks for senior adviser or political posts. Officials say Obama already has approached Rep. Raum Emanuel of Chicago, who got his political start with Clinton, as a possible White House chief of staff. Campaign aide Robert Gibbs has the inside track to be press secretary.
Other Chicago associates likely to land posts in an Obama administration include lawyer and fund raiser Penny Pritzker, and business executive and family friend Valerie Jarrett. Former Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota is certain to have a prominent role if he wants one, and some Obama supporters prefer him over Emanuel as chief of staff.
McCain, in picking his transition chief, set a tone that he would carry into the White House if elected, associates say. He tapped former Navy secretary John Lehman, one of several prominent military officials close to him.
Lehman might serve as Defense secretary or senior adviser in a McCain administration, sources say. McCain, who says U.S. troops should not leave Iraq until victory is secured, might ask current Defense Secretary Robert Gates to stay, at least a while.
Should neither Gates nor Lehman head the Pentagon, McCain might turn to retired Marine Gen. James Jones or Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a lawyer in the Air Force Reserve.
Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an "independent Democrat" who campaigned exhaustively for McCain, would almost surely get a top post, possibly secretary of state. World Bank president Robert Zoellick is another possibility for that slot, or another prominent job.
Two prominent women from the corporate world — former eBay chief Meg Whitman, and former Hewlett-Packard chairman Carly Fiorina — would be strong contenders for roles as official or unofficial advisers to McCain.
At least two of McCain's vanquished GOP rivals could land administration jobs if he wins. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani has been mentioned as a possible attorney general. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney could contend for several other posts.
Retiring Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico could receive a top appointment in Energy or national security, two areas in which she has expertise.
Like Obama, McCain would be almost certain to give top jobs to his chief campaign advisers. Longtime aides Mark Salter and Rick Davis would likely be on the White House staff. Top economics adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin would be offered a post involving domestic policy.