“The mandate is a myth,” said John Altman, associate professor of political science at York College of Pennsylvania. “But even if there was such a thing as a mandate, this clearly isn’t an election that would produce one.”

He pointed to Obama’s small margin of victory and the fact that U.S. voters are divided deeply by race, gender, spirituality, and party affiliation. You can’t claim to be carrying out the will of the people when the populous has little shared will…

“Mandates may not exist in Washington anymore with the hyper-partisanship we now see associated with every substantive or political move on the Hill,” said Steve McMahon, strategist for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign.

“I’m generally an optimist, but it’s hard to see how there is a mandate for anything other than more of what we’ve seen the last several years,” said GOP strategist Mark McKinnon, who helped elect and reelect the younger President Bush. “There’s not a good scenario for how this turns out.”