Did President Obama win a mandate?

The incumbent scored a heady electoral victory and a narrow popular-vote win. How much political capital does that give him?

President Obama won well more than 300 electoral votes on Tuesday, but with nearly half the country against him, he doesn't necessarily have a broad mandate to implement his agenda.
(Image credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Politico's Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen caught some heat before the election by arguing that if Obama was re-elected, he would not win "a broad mandate" because the polls showed he is "the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women, and highly educated urban whites," but not independents or the bulk of white voters. (Romney won independents 50 percent to 45 percent, and won whites 59 percent to 39 percent.) Of course, Obama did win, 50.3 percent to 48.1 percent, with a hefty 303 electoral votes (a tally that will likely climb to 332 when Florida is officially called Obama's way). And as small-business IT coach Jeff Harbert notes on Twitter, "George W. Bush called his 286 electoral vote win over John Kerry in 2004 a mandate." Did Obama win a big pocketful of political capital on Tuesday?

Obama does not have a mandate: This wasn't the sweeping victory Obama notched in 2008, says Glenn Thrush at Politico. It was "an electoral college triumph wrested from a reluctant electorate after one of the most bitter presidential races in recent history." Obama seems to be winning the argument over raising taxes on the wealthy, but he's lost the soaring "bully pulpit" he had four years ago. This "hard-won victory seemed too narrow and too rooted in the Democratic base to grant him anything close to a mandate."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us