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Crafting a mandate in a nation split 50-50

By Taylor Batten
Editorial Page Editor

President Barack Obama should remember this: He has no mandate.

And yet, while I very much doubt he’ll do so, it’s not too late for him to generate one.

Obama won almost every swing state and comfortably won the Electoral College vote over Republican Mitt Romney. Even so, about half the country voted against him.

For his own place in history and for the good of the country, the president needs to (and doesn’t this sound hopelessly naïve?) put party aside and go about solving the daunting problems threatening this nation’s future.

Obama narrowly won a majority of the popular vote, at best, and my sense is that even many who voted for him did so grudgingly. Faced with that truth, and with a divided Congress at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, it’s going to take something special for the president to lead effectively over the next four years.

It will require at least three things: Big ideas, the political courage to pursue them and the communication skills to get a solid majority of the United States, and in turn Congress, behind him. There’s little chance of that, though, if the 2012 campaign is any indication. The campaign was marked by small ideas, a lack of political courage and 30-second TV ads.

The president could end that. People want to be led. If he would lay out an inspiring but realistic vision, one as weighty as the difficulties we face, a strong majority of Americans would sign on, and Obama would have the mandate he couldn’t secure Tuesday.

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