I keep seeing this image on the internet, of President-elect Biden standing at a lectern that looks a bit like the president's.

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I saw this picture of President-elect Biden in the USA Today, and the caption said: President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 9, 2020. I do notice that he has a second American flag to fill the space of the absent flag of the presidency, and a gold seal in lieu of the presidential seal.

It strikes me as a new development that before taking office he should have constructed an office in the theaters that he visits, from which to address the press. When we say "the Office of the President” I suppose that we mean not a room containing office furniture but rather the role of the president, the collection of powers and responsibilities of the president as defined in the Constitution, by comparison to which there isn't really an "Office of the President-elect."

Has any previous politician done this?

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    Related question: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/14411/…
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 12:21
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    Voted to close because of partisan language in the question text.
    – Nobody
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 17:19
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    A political office is a collection of people, not a collection of powers. An office (prople) is all the people that work in an office (place). The president elect's office is presumably the same collection of people that will form their office after inauguration.
    – Vaelus
    Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 14:58
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    @Chaim I merely removed some unnecessary capitalization in the suggested edit (the one before mine). While president-elect is the official title, I don't think Mr. is out of place (e.g. to avoid having the official title in the question title twice).
    – JJJ
    Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 4:20
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    @Chaim I also edited the question to remove the more questionable language, which has been done by others but you rolled back. The reason I was less bothered about adding President Trump’s official title in the answers is because no one is disputing he is (currently) the President. I think it is important that we don’t do anything to propagate the ridiculous notion that Biden lost the election and that he is not legitimately the soon-to-be president. Your actions and wording suggest to me that your intentions may be the opposite.
    – Darren
    Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 9:20

4 Answers 4


According to Wikipedia:

Office of the President-Elect logos first began to be used by the Obama transition team in 2008

And Trump apparently also used one (same source):

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N.B. while that logo lacks the words "office of", there's a photo of Trump in front of a larger thingy that has the words too:

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And (to answer a comment), the same source has a similar photo for Obama

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    I see Reuters has a long[er] story on the matter, but I'm getting ready to party, so... someone else might want to detail from that. Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 17:00

As others have pointed out, the last two presidents — Obama and Trump — used signage for the Office of the President-Elect, so that is not Biden's invention. More to the point, however, the President-Elect has held a de facto government office for a long time: certainly since the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, and informally for decades before that through the allocation of office-space, funding, and other transition essentials. The President-Elect literally has a government office to work out of; on that ground alone the signage is accurate and appropriate.

We can put the creation and use of this signage down to the attacks on the legitimacy of the electoral process that began with Obama's first term and have escalated to the current quagmire we find ourselves in. I imagine Obama began using the signage to offset the persistent attacks on his legitimacy as president: e.g., birtherism, Tea Party slogans, etc. Trump followed suit to offset left-wing assertions that he was dispositionally and cognitively unsuited to the office, and now Biden needs to reaffirm the fact that he is in fact President-Elect in the face of stubborn refusals to acknowledge his victory. It's a sign of our deteriorating institutions that Presidents-Elect now need to constantly remind people of their status as the incoming administration

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    The second paragraph is (like many other answers on current-event questions here) completely unsourced, and most likely reflects nothing but the opinion of the poster. Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 14:01
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    quite a difference between two rocks making fire, and you drawing large conclusions about motivations of politicians and their teams based on no evidence. Maybe Obama/Trump/Biden just liked the way the “Office of the President-elect” stuff looked, and it had absolutely nothing to do with legitimacy. What’s great about that explanation is it has as much supporting evidence as yours right now, which is to say none. Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 16:14
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    As I remember it, there wasn't that much of "persistent attacks on his legitimacy as president" during Obama's transition period. Most of that seems to have come at a later time in his presidency, but at that time he had no use of an "Office of the President-Elect". The Tea Party movement only started in early 2009 when Obama was already inaugurated, and I think it was with that movement that the attacks on his legitimacy really became mainstream within the GOP. At the start of his term, Obama also had very high approval ratings, indicating he was generally seen as legitimate.
    – jkej
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 16:29
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    @jkej: you remember incorrectly. Birtherism has roots all the way back to 2004, and was leveled against Obama heavily even in the 2008 primaries, increasing through the general election. And the official Tea Party organization grew out of the grass-roots Tea Party Movement that coalesced around Sarah Palin during the 2008 election cycle. GO back and read news articles from the period. Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 16:46
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    @jkej: But you're aware that those racist, nationalist undertones were there from early in his candidacy (and before, as a senator). It seems natural to me that someone subject to those pressures would take steps (consciously or unconsciously) to reassert his legitimacy. The alternate argument is that Obama was completely oblivious to the efforts to undercut his legitimacy, and decided (independently, as a matter of self-conceit) to promote his status as PE. Should we prefer to believe the latter? Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 17:55

No, Biden is not the first to do it.

While the Office of the President-elect is not a real governmental office, the role of the President-elect is stated in the Presidential Transition Act of 1963.

Recent presidential transitions have all set up offices named the "Office of the President-elect".

Presidential transition of Barack Obama (2008)


from change.gov, retrieved from the Wayback Machine

Planned presidential transition of Mitt Romney (2012, did not take place)

While Mitt Romney ultimately did not win the election, his transition website was accidentally made public.


from CBS News

Presidential transition of Donald Trump (2016)

While Donald Trump's transition did not use the term "Office of the President-elect" in their website logo, mentions of the office can be found on his transition website.

This is the website for the Office of the President Elect and of the Vice President Elect. This site provides public information about the Presidential transition and offers opportunities to participate in this important public endeavor. Please check back often for updates on news, events, and programs related to the incoming Trump Administration.

(emphasis mine)

from greatagain.gov, retrieved from the Wayback Machine


Just to add a few more historical examples. George W. Bush used a similar setup (titled "Bush Cheney Transition"):

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MCLEAN, VIRGINIA, USA: Vice President-elect Dick Cheney speaks to the media after receiving the card key to the official Transition office from Thurmand Davis, (right) Deputy Adminsitrator of the General Services Adminsitration, at the temporary Bush-Cheney Transition office in McLean, Virginia on December 14, 2000. The GSA also released funding federal funding for the transition effort.

Clinton likewise had a "Clinton/Gore transition team", although they didn't seem to have a special logo (the one in the video is from the inaugural ball):

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Communications Director for the Clinton/Gore transition team, George Stephanopoulos, briefed reporters on issues remaining in the Clinton presidential transition in the final briefing before the next day’s inauguration. He discussed the president-elect’s preinaugural schedule and the Clinton administration’s stance on Iraq.

Bush Senior had a team called "Bush Transition team" that didn't seem to have its own logo:

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Craig Fuller, Co-Director of the Bush Transition Office, discussed the transition process following the Presidential election.

I can't seem to find any videos from the Reagan transition, but a news search reveals "office of the President Elect" was already used back then:

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I can't seem to find anything for Carter, Ford and older Presidents, but feel free to edit this answer if you do.

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