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On healthcare and other hot issues: Follow the independents

The number of voters not tied to Democrats or Republicans is expanding fast. Both parties need to adjust.

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As George W. Bush did in his presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised a new spirit of bipartisanship. But the political rancor has only intensified in Washington from one presidency to the next.

Last week, for example, Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, condemned the GOP's idea of healthcare reform as calling for sick people to "die quickly." Republicans demanded an apology. They equated his comments on the House floor to South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson's shouting at the president, "You lie" [Editor's note: ].

What might bring Democrats and Republicans together on issues that a majority of Americans can back?

The answer may be more of a "who" than a "what."

The whos are independent voters. Forty-three percent of Americans now consider themselves independents – the highest percentage in nearly three decades, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll last month.

And in a half dozen states, independent candidates look ready to launch competitive bids in races for governor.

Independents can be a volatile group. The vast swath of uncommitted swung to Democrats in the midterm elections of 2006 and last year. They're swinging away now.

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