Remember 1992. Clinton was “swept” into office with an “overwhelming mandate” from the voters. They gave him 43% of the popular vote. So a minority was taking an election result as a “mandate”.
In 2000, the GOP victor was concilliatory after having losing the popular vote. He never mentioned a mandate.
In 2006, the Democrats have taken back the House and possibly the Senate. (The Allen/Webb race is a dead heat, separated by about 1400 votes, without absentee, which may favor Allen over Webb. Also, Talent/McCaskill in MO is close– the two keep flip flopping leads.) Is that a mandate? They will say so, undoubtedly. It certainly is a referrendum on the GOP. But the results are not dramatic. Hardly. The Democrats have squeaked out a victory.
But you won’t hear that for the next few month. It will be a “mandate for change” from the American people. And, as always, we’ll see some lame-brained effort by the Democratic leadership to do something they think will win them elections for millenia, only to backfire and bring back the GOP in 2008 or 2010.