And now, suddenly, everything has changed, observes CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante.
Robert Redford's character in "The Candidate" asked, "What do we do now?"
That character was, of course, fiction but, notes Plante, that's the real morning-after question for every winner.
Not since Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the 1932 election has a president-elect faced so many problems both here and abroad.
And Ronald Reagan's chief of staff, Ken Duberstein, who announced his support for Obama late last week, told Plante, "You gotta hit the ground running. You have to be going a hundred miles an hour from day one."
Duberstein ran the transition to the first President Bush.
"The first important move is putting a team together," he says.
Then, he continues, there's no question about what has to be at the top of the transition to-do list: "The new president was elected for one reason, and that is to fix the economy. So, from today on, what he has to do is focus like a laser beam on the economy."
The list goes on from there: Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran' nuclear ambitions, health care reform, energy independence, and much more.
And to tackle all that, Mr. Obama is going to need a lot of help.
"You have to reach out to your allies," Duberstein advises, "but especially to your adversaries, here and abroad, and in Congress, and the interest groups, because you are all in this together."
And one more thing which begins immediately: "When your staff starts addressing you as Mr. President and no longer your first name," Duberstein notes, "your first name is Mister, but your real last name is President!"
That, Plante says, has to take some getting used to! But we do know that both candidates had been planning all along for the transition. There's a team in place -- people on the staff who've been cleared in advance, and names proposed for top jobs.
On The Early Show Wednesday, Dee Dee Myers, a White House press secretary under Bill Clinton, told co-anchor Harry Smith, "The first thing you want to do is be reassuring. You need to come out today, show the world that you've been thinking about these issues, that you're ready to move forward. Maybe make some quick appointments -- I don't think he's ready to do that quite today. But maybe to the transition team. But signal that you are going to make appointments to your White House quickly, that you're moving quickly, that you have a handle on these problems.
"It wouldn't hurt him, in the next few days, to be surrounded by some of his economic advisers, the people who got him here, like (billionaire) Warren Buffett, Bob Rubin, the former treasury secretary, Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Fed -- people who are very reassuring in the eyes of the American people and helped to get Barack Obama here. But I think he needs to show that the competence that got this candidate to the White House is going to be the rule of the day as they go forward, and that he's moving quickly."
Dan Bartlett, a former communications director for the current president, remarked to Smith, "I think it's important to demonstrate the preparation, that they're ready for this moment. ... If we see all those things quickly fall into place, that there's been thought behind this, it would be reassuring to the public. Then, there's a lot of expectations on the new president to set a new tone. And I think people will be watching both symbolically and substantively how he reaches out to the other side."
Myers added, "One of the lines he said (in his speech Tuesday night) that was so compelling was, 'For those of you who didn't vote for me, I hear you.' A very nice moment."