MANDATE…. Political observers can debate whether Barack Obama’s victory this week constitutes a “landslide.” Political scientists can debate whether his win marks the beginning of a “realignment.”

But whether Obama earned a “mandate” need not be controversial.

And yet, there’s Bob Novak, using a line we may soon hear from other conservatives.

Despite resounding progressive victories last night, conservative pundits continue to repeat the myth of a conservative country. Right-wing pundit Robert Novak climbed aboard the bandwagon, writing today that neither the large Democratic gains nor Obama’s sweeping popular and electoral vote margins were proof of a mandate:

“The first Democratic Electoral College landslide in decades did not result in a tight race for control of Congress…. [Obama] may have opened the door to enactment of the long-deferred liberal agenda, but he neither received a broad mandate from the public nor the needed large congressional majorities. “

In 2004, George W. Bush won less than 51% of the popular vote, 53% of the available electoral votes, and enjoyed a vote margin of 3 million. In 2008, Barack Obama won 52.3% of the popular vote, 65% of the available electoral votes (67% after North Carolina is called for him), and enjoyed a vote margin of about 7.4 million. Novak insisted that Bush’s totals “of course” constituted a “mandate,” while Obama’s do not.

Indeed, Media Matters had an item yesterday noting that after the 2004 race, when Bush won a second term with the smallest popular-vote margin since 1976 (excluding the 2000 election) and the lowest electoral vote count for an incumbent president’s re-election since 1916, major media figures still rushed to award Bush a “mandate.”

Obama not only cruised to a major victory, but his party saw major gains in the House, Senate, and state houses. If Obama doesn’t have a “mandate” for his policy agenda, the word has no meaning.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.