For all Barack Obama's talk about change, there are signs that in style — if not substance — a new White House under Democrat Obama would operate much like the current one under President George W. Bush.
Think discipline, efficiency and secrecy. These are hallmarks of Obama's campaign, just as they have been for the last eight years in the leak-proof, tightly managed Bush administration.
If Obama becomes the nation's 44th president, however, the extraordinary history-making aspects of his ascension could for a time overshadow almost everything else.
The nation would have its first black leader, one of its youngest presidents ever and someone with a varied, even exotic, background. The book on the United States' checkered history of race relations would add a new chapter. And even if Obama's honeymoon was short-lived, the world would see America in a new light.
There are other ways, small and large, that an Obama White House promises to usher in newness.
Obama's two daughters, at ages 10 and 7, would be the youngest residents to roam the White House since 9-year-old Amy Carter tagged along with President Jimmy Carter and his wife in 1977. Obama's poise at the podium would end an era of water-cooler jokes about presidential malapropisms.
On issues, Obama's approach on everything from Iraq to health care would look much different from the last eight years. He has pledged to preside over an unconventional style of politics and policy development virtually blind to party, an intriguing possibility even if hard to trust after years of divisive partisanship.
Circumstances often spring game-changing surprises on a new president. But how candidate Obama has managed his campaign, and what he's promised along the way, offer hints of how a President Obama would govern.
Obama, like Bush, demands an orderly shop.
Aides are expected to be both tightlipped and tight-knit. They get a "no drama" speech upon hire. And even if that rule is violated, histrionic disagreements over strategy, policy or personality are expected to stay behind closed doors, and they actually do. Most events come off like clockwork.
Obama's style as a candidate predicts a chief executive officer-style president, one who delegates rather than micromanages.
It's the same model as for Bush, the nation's first president with a masters in business administration. It derives in part from something the two men have in common: natural political gifts that set them on a path to the White House that took shortcuts around much government experience. That means policy experts are needed for heavy lifting.
The 47-year-old Obama hasn't finished his first term in the U.S. Senate, and before that had just eight years as a state lawmaker under his government belt.
Obama, like Bush, relies most on a small, hard-to-penetrate inner circle. It's been a successful formula, but can irk power players in his party and in Congress, who sometimes see Team Obama as too insular. This image was only fed by the decision to place Obama's campaign headquarters far from Washington in Chicago and the way his campaign used the Internet and grass-roots supporters, more than party bosses, to capitalize on the Obama phenomenon.
Obama's discipline is less about the importance of secrecy and more about making the organizational trains run on time, said Princeton University political historian Julian Zelizer.
Bush and Obama stand for very different things, says Zelizer, but Obama "runs his campaign with the same sort of methodical efficiency and closed nature of the Bush White House."
"He's not going to have a freewheeling White House where people are free to go out on their own and do what they want and be allowed to talk to the press," Zelizer said.
Sen. Dick Durbin, a longtime Obama friend and fellow Illinois Democrat, says Obama created a tight ship in part by being willing to hear things he doesn't like from aides, and by not ripping into them when mistakes were made. "There were setbacks, but there was no bloodletting," he said.
Obama is known for his loyalty, as well as for preferring aides who keep their mind on the work and the attention on the boss. Know much about David Plouffe or Valerie Jarrett or Pete Rouse or Steve Hildebrand or Robert Gibbs or David Axelrod? These campaign masterminds could well soon have offices in the White House, but none has become a celebrity aide in the mold of Bill Clinton's James Carville or Bush's Karl Rove.
Obama's own style combines cool-to-the-point-of-detached bearing with cerebral decision-making and natural charisma.
His Republican rival, John McCain, casts Obama as indecisive, inexperienced, and aloof — a celebrity empty suit. Obama's camp counters that he is a leader who thinks first, decides later and remains calm in a crisis.
Regardless, Zelizer said, Obama will need to guard against abandoning his natural caution to launch a spree of legislative action right off the bat. Going too far to please Democrats excited about finally being in control again of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue could risk a backlash from the public, he said.
With all the attention that is paid to a president's first 100 days in office, candidates themselves often divide their proposals between those with get-it-done-now status and those that will have to wait.
One issue that won't wait even until Inauguration Day is the battered economy.
Obama supports immediate action, in a special post-election congressional session, to spend billions on new economic stimulus measures. His ideas: a moratorium on home foreclosures, tax breaks for job creation and small-business investment, penalty-free withdrawals from retirement accounts, an unemployment benefits extension, support for state and local governments, money for infrastructure construction, and doubled loan guarantees for automakers.
Beyond that, Obama has defined three big issues for the first 100 days of his presidency: working to bring combat troops home from Iraq in a little over a year, beginning a plan to achieve universal health care coverage, and getting started on a far-reaching energy plan.
During 20 months of campaigning, he also has promised that many other things will gain his immediate attention, among them: immigration reform; a strict ethics code; a review of Bush's executive orders, particularly those dealing with warrantless wiretaps, the prison at the Guantanamo Bay Navy base, and interrogation techniques; and a rural policy summit in Iowa with accompanying legislative proposals to Congress.
With an economic emergency at hand, many may have to be postponed.
But for a man whose candidacy got rocket fuel from his opposition to the decision to go into Iraq, the one promise Obama cannot afford to put off is the one to end the war. Obama has promised that ending the war would be a priority not for his first 100 days in office — but for his very first. The Joint Chiefs of Staff will find themselves in the Oval Office on Jan. 21, he says, being handed a new mission from their commander in chief "to end this war, responsibly and deliberately, but decisively."
In all these things, Obama has reached big. That means he would need to spend a fair amount of time early on building bridges to Capitol Hill. Working with a Congress controlled by his own party doesn't guarantee he'd easily get what he wants.
To marshal public support for his agenda, he'll need to draw on his vaunted oratorical skills.
His speeches may be as measured as his "No Drama Obama" demeanor. But with subtle shifts in volume and pacing, Obama can move an audience to thunderous ovation or hushed attention. That's a potent tool, in governing as well as politics.
"The smart thing to do," Zelizer said, "would be to keep that up."