Joe Scarborough asks in his latest comment on the politics of the fiscal cliff: "Mandate? What mandate?"
The former Republican congressman turned able MSNBC host poses the question in order to examine whether rational Republicans might feel "bound by the same mandate Barack Obama presumes he owns" on tax issues.
Did Barack Obama win the minimal mandate that would be required to raise marginal tax rates on the very rich to 39.6 percent? That's a minor initiative, as the 39.6 percent rate would simply return the United States to the level of taxation for the wealthy that was in place when the economy was a good deal more vibrant than it has been since George W. Bush and Dick Cheney made the political -- not economic -- decision to slash the rate.
The answer to the question is clear if we put the 2012 results into any sort of perspective.
As the November 6 election approached, there was a general sense that the race was very close, and that either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney could win. Even as the results came in, there was a tendency on the part of commentators to suggest that the numbers showed, in the words of former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour, "pretty close to a tie." Even a week after the voting was done, the failed Republican nominee for vice president was claiming that the finish was "very close."