In 2004, George W. Bush won 50.7 percent of the popular vote over Democrat John Kerry, and had a 286-251 edge in electoral votes. As FAIR noted (Media Advisory, 11/5/04), many outlets proclaimed that to be a "mandate." "Clear Mandate Will Boost Bush's Authority, Reach," read a USA Today headline (11/4/04); NPR's Renee Montaigne said (11/3/04), "By any definition, I think you could call this a mandate."
So this week Barack Obama won re-election; before the Florida results were final, he had a 303-206 electoral vote advantage and 50.5 percent of the popular vote. What do you call that? For a lot of people in the media, definitely not a mandate.