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Virginia Tech’s Karen Hult: Not too early to start thinking of Biden presidential transition

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Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden launched his transition team website Wednesday even as vote counting continued in key battleground states and the outcome of the election remained uncertain.

Virginia Tech political science professor Karen Hult, who serves on the advisory board to the White House Transition Project, says planning for a possible transition is important because the work ahead will be especially challenging.

“Among the main objectives in transition is to ensure continuity in government, which among other things requires exchanging information between the outgoing and the incoming administrations about challenges, opportunities, and ongoing work,” said Hult, who teaches political science at Virginia Tech and its Center for Public Administration & Policy, with expertise in the U.S. presidency and organizational and institutional theory.

“It’s often difficult, particularly when the transition involves partisan turnover and often even more when an incumbent running for reelection is defeated,” Hult said.

Court battles and re-counts have the potential to interfere with a smooth transition effort.

“Probably the largest concerns would be distractions for the public and the Biden-Harris staff, and possible harms to the president-elect’s legitimacy. Other possibilities might be curtailing the information flow or directing staffers not to meet with those from the incoming administration,” Hult said. “The ‘gold standard’ is the George W. Bush to Obama transition, which by all reports worked smoothly and constructively.”

Some of the biggest tasks ahead for the new administration include:

  • Putting together a White House staff and working to prepare nominees for confirmation hearings.
  • Addressing top policy priorities, including paying more systematic national attention to COVID-19.
  • Reassuring people on the economy and working with the new Congress of a new aid package.
  • Focusing on relationships with international leaders.