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WHAT OTHERS SAY: Obama must lead a still-divided nation forward

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 | 3:54 p.m. CST

Barack Obama’s remarkable run at history will continue with four more years in the White House. That should be good for America.

Obama’s victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney is exceptional, given the depth and breadth of the recession and other problems he faced upon assuming office four years ago.

An unemployment rate of 7.9 percent would generally present an almost insurmountable barrier for an incumbent. Despite a bruising campaign, voters showed a willingness to let Obama continue the slow but upward trajectory the nation has followed since he took office.

Obama did a better job than Romney of presenting himself as the more compassionate leader for the struggling middle class. His leadership over the bailout for the auto companies was huge in the battleground states where he most needed votes.

In a second term, without the pressure of a re-election ahead, Obama must work to fulfill his campaign promise of four years ago to become a bipartisan healer.

Improving the fiscal health of the nation will take sacrifices, compromises and strong leadership. It also will require a new mindset among Republicans. Please, let us not hear about a cabal of elected officials deciding before inauguration day that their top goal is to thwart the president. Americans simply can’t afford that old way.

Obama’s victory is good news for Americans who wish for accessible and affordable health care. The next four years should be devoted to rolling out and refining the Affordable Care Act and adding more cost-saving initiatives.

Priority number one, however, must be the nation’s fiscal health. Obama should finally embrace the concepts of his own bipartisan deficit reduction commission and work with congressional leaders to put those sound principles in place.

His proposed spending cuts, coupled with infrastructure and education investments and higher taxes on upper-income Americans, will require much more hands-on campaigning to become reality. We expect this lesson has been learned, and it will be a different White House that more effectively woos Republicans and Democrats.

The challenges ahead are too many to enumerate: Syria, Iran, terrorism, deficits, debt, slow job growth, tax inequities, climate change, energy independence. Fortunately, Obama is a more seasoned leader. Now is the time for him to go bold to reinvigorate the nation with new approaches to solving intractable problems.

Romney ran an energetic campaign, surfacing from a bruising primary to begin remaking himself as a moderate. But his message was generally negative, focusing on the nation’s problems, and that’s a hard sell. While he often polled better as the one to fix the economy, on other issues he didn’t connect with enough voters to unseat the incumbent.

Let the healing begin.

Whew

Todd Akin brought Missouri the worst kind of national publicity with his comments on “legitimate rape” victims being able to “shut that whole thing down” and avoid pregnancy. Mercifully, Missouri soundly shut down his bid for the U.S. Senate, returning Democrat Claire McCaskill to represent the state.

McCaskill’s high-stakes gamble — helping Akin across the primary finish line with ads pumping up his conservative credentials — worked.

McCaskill deserved re-election for championing worker and women’s rights, tough anti-fraud and waste oversight and straight-talk leadership. We look forward to her contributions over the next six years.

And a quick exit from the House science committee for Akin.

Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.


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