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Dems play blame game for Senate loss

Dems play blame game for Senate loss

Posted: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 8:01 pm
By: AP

 WASHINGTON (AP) — A few months ago, the question was not who would win Massachusetts’ open Senate seat, but which Democrat. Now it’s which Democrats get blamed for losing it. President Barack Obama’s allies took aim at their party’s nominee, Martha Coakley, and her aides for failing to win the seat held since 1962 by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. “I think even a mediocre campaign up there would have been successful,” David Plouffe, who led Obama’s White House bid, told CBS News on Wednesday. Unfriendly fire engulfed the party long before the polls closed Tuesday and Republican Scott Brown had defeated Coakley, Massachusetts’ attorney general. Washington insiders a week earlier began blaming Coakley, while her campaign fired back that national Democrats didn’t help her soon enough. There wasn’t much analysis of what drove independents to Brown in the race for the seat long held by Edward M. Kennedy, who died in August. Democrats were too busy sniping in the classic Washington way — under cover of anonymity. Not Obama’s camp. “I think the White House did everything we were asked to do,” David Axelrod told reporters before the polls closed. “Had we been asked earlier, we would have responded earlier.” The signs of trouble were there. In the bluest of blue states, the election was seen, at least in part, as a referendum on Obama, on health care, on the Democratic majority that had controlled two of three branches of government for a year. Democrats could agree on the obvious: somebody had taken the seat for granted, had underestimated the public’s anger over the economy, over the Democrats’ health care overhaul, over plain old arrogance in Washington. The rest was a blame-a-thon unseen among Democrats since President George W. Bush won re-election over Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry in 2004. Coakley pollster Celinda Lake acknowledged some missteps on the part of the campaign, such as failing to have enough money to buy TV ads early on to more sharply define Brown. But she said the problem was Washington and the Democratic Party, and that the president’s effort to overhaul health care was not defined enough to earn the support of some voters. Disgust with Democrats runs so deep, Lake said, that the Coakley campaign was unable to convince voters that the candidate had spent her career as a prosecutor going after Wall Street. “People didn’t believe it, and they didn’t vote for her because they think the Democrats in Washington are not putting up economic policies that serve Main Street and working families,” Lake said. Sarah Palin, who was on the losing end of the 2008 presidential campaign, said the blame game “just wastes time.” “I’ve been there too — blame laid on a candidate for a campaign not being victorious at the end of the day,” the former GOP vice presidential candidate told Fox News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren. “Democrats should get over that, just skip that chapter of the book.” For a week, high-level Democratic operatives panned Coakley’s performance as so weak that even a personal appearance by Obama couldn’t save her. Even while people were voting, the White House was blaming Coakley and dismissing the notion that the toxic political environment had been a factor. Coakley’s campaign fired back in a point-by-point memo that blamed that very environment. Her aides said that if Coakley took the seat for granted, so did the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee. Her lead, Coakley’s supporters argued, dropped significantly after the Senate passed health care legislation shortly before Christmas and even more after the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner, which Obama himself said was a failure of his administration. In the end, the verdict may not be about the president or the candidate. “The Democrats have the White House. The Democrats have the Senate, as well,” said Griffin Smith, 24, a teacher, who voted for Obama last year. “I would like to have more of a checks-and-balance system.” Published in The Messenger 1.20.10

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