What this means is that whoever wins, probably narrowly, has a dramatic task. He can govern with 50 percent, or 49.5, but at huge cost. Obama, whose winning margin in 2008 was distorted by "Bush fatigue" and the recession, found the country much more divided than he had thought. He proposed Obamacare. Up went the boos and hisses. Eventually he had to ram the thing down our throats. It was no one's definition of leadership. Bullyship was more like it. The administration's take-that-you-conservative-jerk style of governing makes real governing next to impossible.
Not that Mitt's good nature (an attribute rarely charged to Obama's account) would make it particularly easy for him to do the hard, sometimes heartbreaking, things he wants to do. Not in a 50 percent climate. He needs all the so-called mandate he can command, and he ought to receive it if he bucks up the economy and re-plugs the job-creating machine.
The Clinton view of how the two parties operate -- one saying go to work, you bum; the other whispering, hey, buddy, let me stand you a drink -- insults normal intelligence. But it shows how delicate the task is of running a split country. My Way or the Highway Obama seems not to appreciate the delicacy -- a blind spot through which Romney-Ryan could drive an 18-wheeler by showing our divided electorate that freedom isn't about winners taking all. Rather, it's about allowing winners to take anything the government doesn't assign them. And if the Republicans flop at that task? Get ready, I guess, for four years of we're-all-in-this-together (so work, work, you one percenters! Who do you think will pay for this country otherwise?).