Paul Ryan Explains How Mandates Work

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Help us understand mandates, Paul Ryan.

Throughout his three months on the campaign trail, Paul Ryan routinely declared in his stump speech that after laying out their proposals openly and honestly (disregard the great effort that went into withholding specifics of their tax reform plan), he and Mitt Romney would earn "the mandate and the moral authority" to enact their agenda when they won the presidential race. For example, on September 29 in Derry, New Hampshire, Ryan told the crowd, "We want to deserve this victory, because what we need, what we as a country need, is a mandate and the moral authority to get us back on the right track." Ryan repeated variations of this line over two dozen times.

But then President Obama and his platform of raising taxes on the wealthy won fairly easily. He beat Romney by 126 electoral votes and three and a half million popular votes, and lost only one out of about a dozen contested swing states. Yesterday, ABC News' Jonathan Karl asked Ryan whether Obama was given a mandate from the people:

Jonathan Karl: Does Barack Obama now have a mandate?

Paul Ryan: I don't think so. Because they also reelected the House Republicans. So whether people intended or not, we've got divided government.

Jonathan Karl: So you don't think there's a mandate here?

Paul Ryan: I don't, because then they would have put Nancy Pelosi in charge of the House of Representatives.

It's worth pointing out that, though the House GOP did retain their majority in the chamber — thanks in part to the cushion they started with and the magic of gerrymandering — Democratic congressional candidates actually received about 900,000 more cumulative votes than Republican congressional candidates in this election. But anyway, just to get Ryan's Rules of Mandates clear here: If Ryan wins, it's a mandate. If Obama wins, his party also needs to control the House of Representatives — otherwise, no mandate. What if Ryan and Romney won, but the Democrats still gained two seats in the Senate? Unclear, but we're guessing it's a mandate.