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Exit polls show President Obama should go on listening tour, not take victory lap


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Last-minute voters broke in favor of the president, who won the 9 percent of the voters who decided in the last few days. Indeed, the October surprise of superstorm Sandy and its made-for-TV presidential photo opportunities likely stopped Romney’s momentum and tipped the election for Obama. (The 42 percent of voters who said that hurricane Sandy was an important factor in their vote chose the president by a 37-point margin.)

Both parties won resounding support from their base. Independents chose Romney by a five-point margin, but the Democratic edge in total voters pushed the final tally toward Obama.

Bill Clinton pleaded with the American people to give their president four more years to finish the job, and by a slim margin they consented. Obama should seek the counsel of his party’s elder statesman once again. Mr. Clinton learned from the 1994 Republican wave in Congress, changed his tactics, and worked with Republicans to balance the budget and enact historic welfare reform.

Obama would do well to follow in Clinton’s footsteps by bridging partisan chasms before his party faces the voters again in 2014. Of course, Republican leaders in the House also have to be willing to come to the table, ready and willing to negotiate in good faith.

But Obama’s small margin of victory is no mandate for staying the course. Voters are frustrated with both parties digging in their heels and refusing to work together. Obama needs to read the exit-poll tea leaves, demonstrate more political flexibility and willingness to work in coalitions, and champion real solutions to the vexing problems facing our country.

A humbled president who seeks partnerships across the aisle and is willing to listen to and engage the concerns of groups outside his liberal base – that would be real change that America could believe in.

Amy E. Black is associate professor of political science and chair of the department of politics and international relations at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill.


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