MARGARET JANE WYSZOMIRSKI
Customarily, the study of presidential transitions has defined the subject as a transfer of power and office from one individual to another that occurs in the approximately eleven-week period between the quadrennial November presidential election and inauguration day the following January. In practice, however, transitions extend much farther in time at both ends of the process. Transition planning reaches back into the months before the election and is affected by the tone, content, and results of the campaign. Similarly, transition implementation extends at least through the so-called “honeymoon period” and into the apocryphal first hundred days of the administration. Although a hundred days is an artificial designation, it is a convenient and popularly recognized marker that is commonly used by journalists and scholars.
Transitions require the president-elect to address four primary tasks: (1) assembling an administration, which involves both making personnel appointments and organizing the administration team; (2) setting a policy agenda; (3) determining a political strategy that takes into account both constraints and assets; and (4) balancing continuity and change as manifest in politics, people, and policy.
The particular character of each of these four tasks varies depending not only on which of four types of transitions is involved but also upon the specific circumstances of the moment. Regular transfers of power can involve one of two partisan casts—an inter-party transition or an intra-party transition. Historically, inter-party transitions are seen as the archetypal transition and have attracted most scholarly attention. An inter-party transition occurs when a Republican incumbent is succeeded by a Democratic candidate (for example, Clinton succeeding Bush in 1992-93) or the reverse, when a Republican candidate is elected to succeed a Democratic incumbent