The tag from an NPR story from yesterday:

"Still, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid insisted Democrats are simply carrying out a mandate they got at the polls from a war-weary nation. Democrats seem confident that in this fight, public opinion's on their side" (link here).

Some caveats: I am not sure if "mandate" was solely NPR correspondent David Welna's interpretation; there is no direct quote concerning a "mandate" in the story, and Reid has avoided "mandate" talk before. However, "mandate" is the buzz word of this particular debate.

Is there a public mandate to withdraw US troops from Iraq?

Public polling is mixed, although there are a number of polls that indicate Americans are increasingly exasperated with our progress in Iraq. As well they should be. But I am skeptical that the understandable grumbling and frustration in the heartland is actually hard support for "redeployment" (as John Murtha likes to call it).

Also: there is a lag time to public polling. The polls will be behind any change in public sentiment resulting from any successes that might occur as a result of the Petraeus-coordinated influx.

But by the same token, admittedly, this is a fluid situation. Bad news or a lack of progress increases the momentum of discontent. The vote yesterday in the Senate may indicate that Gordon Smith, Chuck Hegel and Ben Nelson read the aforementioned current polls as significant.

However, in terms of an electoral mandate from the November election, I suspect the Democrats are overplaying their hand.

Some things to remember:

1. While no one can doubt that the war played a role in Democratic gains, arguably, the Republicans lost only one Senate seat directly as a result of Iraq: Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania.

a. George Allen in Virginia shot himself in the foot--and then succumbed to a ferocious media campaign against him, in which the Washington Post trumpeted charges of racial violence against him, which as of today still remain uncorroborated. Even so, Allen lost by a whisker.

b. Jim Talent lost Missouri, always a close state, on a myriad of issues, including Michael J. Fox and stem cell politics.

c. The GOP lost Ohio and Montana as a result of scandals unconnected to Iraq.

d. The GOP held Arizona and Tennessee against serious antiwar opposition and ran very close in Democratic strongholds, NJ and Maryland.

2. The GOP lost the House as much as a result of pent-up conservative nausea as antiwar outrage. Mark Foley was the straw that broke the camel's back.

3. In fact, if there was a bell weather race in terms of the war, I would argue that it was Connecticut, where Joe Lieberman rebounded from a devastating attack on his war position to win the general election with enormous bipartisan support in a very Blue state.

4. One more thing, read this post from a few days ago concerning Texas 17 Representative Chet Edwards and the way he characterized his vote to set a timetable for withdrawal--and then tell me if Congressman Edwards thinks he was fulfilling a mandate from his voters.

Mandate? If given the choice, Americans prefer winning this war to losing it.