Many commentators ask if in an electorate as closely divided as America’s, is it possible that the winner will have a mandate? Pundits will say the winner is not receiving a clear and unmistakable message of what course Americans want the next president to take.
Pundits are asking the wrong questions and drawing the wrong conclusions.
The only way this will be a “mandate” election is if Mitt Romney wins. That would be an unmistakable message that the American public is upset with the direction of the last four years and has lost faith in the administration of Barack Obama. That is a mandate.
Instead, if the American public returns Barack Obama to the White House for four more years (as I predict they will with 290 Electoral College Votes), then the message is that the public is reaffirming the mandate approved in 2008.
In 2006, disgusted with the first two years of George W. Bush’s second term, Americans returned Congress to Democratic control in landslide Democratic victories in both the House and the Senate. When John McCain commenced on his tone-deaf campaign for the presidency in 2008, as if the 2006 elections never occurred, and then promised to continue Bush’s economic policies, he promptly received 7 million fewer votes than Obama.
That was a mandate, a mandate to use the federal government to pivot the American economy from catastrophe.
Even The Economist, no left-leaning newspaper, concurs. In its endorsement of Obama, the English publication wrote:
“His responses—an aggressive stimulus, bailing out General Motors and Chrysler, putting the banks through a sensible stress test and forcing them to raise capital (so that they are now in much better shape than their European peers)—helped avert a Depression. That is a hard message to sell on the doorstep when growth is sluggish and jobs scarce; but it will win Mr Obama some plaudits from history, and it does from us too.”
If you carefully listen to Obama’s actual words, which most pundits have not, then you know that he has campaigned in 2012 to continue the direction set in his first term. Unfortunately, for Obama, his television advertisements have mostly attacked Romney rather than articulating a more positive agenda. Should Obama lose, the top regret of his campaign team, I suspect, will be that the president’s campaign was not more presidential in tone and comport.
But, this is truly the effect of political campaign laws gone wild. Since the misguided decision in Citizens United led to even more money in politics, candidates must run campaigns to win, not the campaigns we wish to watch.