If George Bush wins the election Tuesday -- which I believe he will -- he will have a mandate, regardless of his margin of victory. Why? Because his message has been simple, focused, direct and consistent. Voters know where he stands.
From the time he announced his candidacy Bush has been telling us that the president cannot be all things to all people; he should do a limited number of things and do them well. Bush's approach to the office is consistent with his philosophy of government: Relatively speaking, the less of it, the better.
Throughout the primaries and the general election Bush has stayed on message, not deviating from his proposals, even when doing so would have been politically expedient.
He laid out a tax plan during the primaries and has not altered it one iota, despite the relentless assaults on it from his opponents in both parties. Most of his GOP opponents said it was too little, and Gore said it was too much and tailored to the wealthy. Bush has also explained the reasons for tax reduction. Excess revenues belong to the people who overpaid them, spending cuts cannot be achieved without tax cuts, and marginal tax cuts stimulate economic growth.
Bush had the courage to tackle the untouchable "third rail" of politics (Social Security) by proposing that we partially alter its structure -- knowing full well that he would be bombarded with scare-mongering by his opponent. Bush has remained unflappable.
Bush has been enthusiastic about his educational proposals. Having achieved improved test scores in Texas, especially among minorities, he is anxious to see nationwide improvements. He is adamant, however, that local school districts remain sovereign, but accountable.
Bush has also been very clear in articulating his commitment to rebuilding the military and just as importantly, to stop the Clinton-Gore practice of using it as an international Meals on Wheels. Bush will not intervene in the internal affairs of other nations absent a compelling national interest.
Bush has promised to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and the federal bench who, like Justices Thomas and Scalia, believe in interpreting the Constitution according to its original intent. His judges would leave policy-making to the democratically elected legislatures.
Though Al Gore has not been as consistent on the issues as Bush, the contrast between the two candidates could not be more pronounced. Which is another reason Bush's mandate will be clear. Gore's philosophy, coursing through all of his policy proposals, is that government should keep the money and the control.
Bush has promised to restore dignity to the White House. He believes that character matters, and that the president should set a moral example for the nation, including its children.
Bush has pledged to return civility to Washington. The importance of this cannot be overstated. One reason he is so popular in Texas is that he has reached across party lines and treated his opponents with respect. His emphasis is on results, not partisan conquest. More than anything else, I think, this will differentiate the Bush administration from the Clinton-Gore years.
Clinton and Gore ushered in an era of unprecedented divisiveness and acrimony between the parties. Competition is a good process, but during the Clinton-Gore reign, it has become an end in itself.
Clinton and Gore together set the tone for their tenure in the fall of 1995, when they embarked on a systematic plan to win at any cost, including the rapacious acquisition of illegal foreign contributions and the sale of the White House.
Clinton then planted deep seeds of distrust early in his first term with a bait and switch -- promising a tax cut for the middle class and instead proposing the largest tax hike in American history -- and Gore cast the tie vote. They even rubbed a retroactive increase in our faces.
Clinton and Gore never really had a mandate -- not just because they were first elected with only 43 percent of the vote -- but because their message was unrefined and muddled and changed with the ever-shifting winds of political polling.
In the event of Bush's victory, neither the Democrats nor the press will concede that the electorate gave Bush a mandate. They will say it was a personality contest having nothing to do with issues. If you haven't noticed, their spinning has already begun.
In January they'll still be spinning. Bush will be governing.