Razor, you're right about the population issue, but the backslapping seems louder over the "majority" issue, since a plurality has been the best anyone could do lately. Repubs are very eager to claim the mandate, as they're entitled to. Now what will W. do with it. That is indeed the question.
Despite general agreement on the mandate issue, by commentators I mean, there is still a lot of talk about "Bush must reach out to the opposition" etc. That's true, of course, as much as it's true of any president. But Bush has an opportunity to leverage his confirmed popularity, and I don't expect to see any weakening on critical issues.