Barack Obama owes his election in part to President Bush's vast unpopularity, but that favor comes at a cost: the president-elect will be assuming responsibility for a credit crisis, a banking collapse, an unstable stock market and what is likely to be a lasting recession.
Now that he has won the White House following a two-year campaign that relied on soaring rhetoric about America's future, reality is setting in -- how can Obama deliver on his lengthy list of promises?
"He's made comments on the campaign trail that will have to be reconciled with his policies," said Republican political analyst Dylan Glenn.
Obama has offered tax cuts for working families, affordable and expanded health care and a speedy withdrawal from Iraq intended to save billions of dollars each month.
"His notion about what he will do in Iraq, his notion about what he will do in terms of fiscal policy for this country will have to be translated into real live policy, and that will be a challenge," Glenn said.
Obama will inherit a budget deficit that many analysts say could hit $1 trillion for the first time in history, potentially crimping any promises of tax cuts or spending on new programs.
He faces a diving economy that has traumatized Americans trying to buy a home, pay for college or plan for retirement. And he'll confront the complexities of trying to extricate U.S. forces from Iraq while facing a resurgent conflict in Afghanistan.
"He's taking office during a recession, in all likelihood, which is about what happened to George Bush," said Kevin Hassett, a senior fellow and director of economic policies at the American Enterprise Institute. "The odds are that we'll have a recession that's pretty lengthy, maybe stretching into the spring."
Just last month, Obama said he would delay rescinding Bush's tax cuts on wealthy Americans if there is a recession, suggesting such an increase would further hurt the economy.
"I think we've got to take a look and see where the economy is," he told ABC News. "I mean, the economy is weak right now."
He added that he still plans to push for his promised tax cuts for the middle class. But during the last weeks of the campaign, confusion swirled over how Obama defines the middle class. Joe Biden pegged the middle class as people making under $150,000 a year, and Bill Richardson cited those making under $120,000. Both figures are lower than the $250,000 Obama had set as the threshold for a tax increase.
Robert Litan, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, said he believes economic realities will force Obama to adjust only the timing of his promises.
"I think he's been very clear about what he wants to do," Litan said, citing Obama's pledge to fix healthcare, reduce dependence on foreign oil and lift middle-class families.
"I don't think his priorities are going to change. It's just the pace is going to be slower," he said.
Litan said he's not sure if Obama can do everything he wants in one term. But as far as what is Obama's top priority, Litan said it will be clear only if Obama tackle these issues sequentially.
Political analyst and FOX News contributor Juan Williams said Obama's biggest critics will come from the party's left wing, because he won't be able to fulfill all of his promises.
"Barack Obama realizes if he does anything precipitous with regard to American military forces in a place like Iraq and puts anybody in danger or in some way allows terrorists to make some gains, he will suffer a tremendous backlash that could be political damaging to him to the point that he never recovers," Williams said.
Glenn agreed, noting that will be "working with a liberal Congress that has been strengthened in numbers both on the Senate and House side."
Regarding what not to do as president, Obama need look no further than to Bush himself.
The outgoing president mainly embraced deregulation during his two terms in office, but some economists fault him for lacking a clear economic vision, leaving the next administration to pick up the pieces in his wake.
"In the end he was a president who failed to have any coherent economic policy," Hassett told FOXNews.com. "He pursued an enormous number of policies that were designed to attract Democratic support, and they all failed miserably to do that."
Obama's economic influence may well begin before he takes office, as he appoints a transition team to shape his administration's economic policies.
But the decisions that define his first few months in office could already be established in deals hammered out by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who announced Wednesday that she wants to revisit a stimulus package that includes additional benefits for the unemployed.
"I think that most of the policies, especially if there's [an additional] stimulus package... might well be baked into the cake by the time he takes office," Hassett said.
I'm not sure he'll be able to deliver on all of the rhetoric he relied upon to get into office... thank God!
In his speech, Obama invoked the words of Abraham Lincoln and echoed John F. Kennedy. "So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder," he said. If he truly believes these words, then what need would there be to spread the wealth in the first place? I mean, if everyone is working hard, they don't need any hand-outs... right???
I guess we'll just have to see how it all works out. I wish him the best and hope the next four years goes better than I think they will. I am a patriot and will back him and pray he is smarter than I think he is. Congratulations, President Obama!
I would also like to congratulate Senator John McCain on a hard-fought campaign and to thank him for a lifetime of service to this great country. The Democrats can bash him all they want, but none of them have half the balls that this man has. You are a great American, Senator McCain!!!
God Bless America!