It looks like this year, just like in 2000, we may see a President elected via the electoral college who did not win the majority of the popular vote. How likely is this, and what might the implications be for the newly elected President? Will they still have a clear mandate?
Well, I would say a couple things - first, I'm not certain it is particularly likely - it is possible, perhaps more likely than normal, but the weakness of third-party contenders (or should I say exclusion) has led to a limited ability by them to split the vote. Secondly, I think that, given the statistical data coming in, it seems likely that Governor Romney would have to achieve a "perfect storm" scenario to neither lose (slightly more likely) or defeat (less likely, but still possible) President Obama outright statistically.
Like so much about this election, however, I would insist that this depends upon turnout - who turns out and where, in terms of factions, will be largely the deciding factor.
Finally, as to the mandate concept - honestly the election of the presidency, being as it is governed by an electoral college with a secondary governance by Congress, was never an office about mandate - it was about concession in operations. Congress, and the House of Representatives in particular, which is far more definitively governed by classical democratic-republican principles and in which the legislative mandate is invested, well, that is where mandates lie.
Finally, even if we conceptualize the president as being a mandate-driven office, well, it simply isn't going to have a good mandate this time. Fact. Fate accompli. Fancy words, much like the last several preside