Tuesday's elections didn't provide much, if any, good news for Democrats. But it did grant a bit of vindication for Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts Attorney General who suffered a dramatic loss to Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) ten months ago.
Back in January, the onus of the blame for Coakley's defeat was thrust squarely on Coakley herself. The mid-campaign "vacation," the failure to understand or appreciate Red Sox Nation, the robotic nature of her personality all contributed to the loss of the party's 60th Senate seat.
Time has a way of changing the narrative. And today, Coakley increasingly resembles the first shoe to drop in an election that saw a lot of dropped shoes. Politico's Ben Smith noted on Tuesday evening that for all her supposed incapacities as a statewide candidate, Coakley won reelection to her Attorney General's post. And in an interview with the Huffington Post on Wednesday, the Coakley Senate campaign's chief pollster -- and someone who also took a heap of criticism for the loss -- claimed a bit of exoneration.
"I think Martha Coakley's race was a canary in the mine and I'm not sure that we fully grasped the lessons of it," said Celinda Lake. "I think there were some mistakes on the campaign. But I think what happened is everybody went into this blame game and chastise Martha game and I think that the fact that she won resoundingly and didn't even have a real Republican opponent speaks to her strength and record."
So what, exactly, was the common thread that tied Coakley's loss with the broader defeats suffered by the party on Tuesday?
"Voters had a desire for change and for the same sentiments that brought them to us in 2008 brought them to these Tea Party candidates and often very flawed candidates in 2010," Lake explained. "The blue-collar America really feels that the economic policies in the past few years has helped people sitting around conference tables more than it's helped people sitting around kitchen tables. And that is really a losing formula for Democrats -- we are supposed to be for working people. I think that is a real challenge and that was evident in Massachusetts as well."
It is, of course, a bit of an indictment of party leadership to argue that they weren't able to course-correct from the loss of the Massachusetts special election in January to the midterms in elections. And when pressed as to what the party should have done differently to avoid the fate that Coakley's loss foreshadowed, Lake was pretty blunt. The president, she offered, never put forward a straight message about "delivering on jobs to working people."
"Really, they should have been communicating that and taking action every day. The first opportunity for that is to address the mortgage and housing crisis. It makes no sense to ordinary people to say you don't want to mess around with the house market because it can hurt you. That makes no sense to real people because real people cannot understand how anybody losing their house can leave anybody else better off and how, if you are in a neighborhood trying to maintain your own home and there is an abandoned or foreclosed home next door, how does that improve your housing value?... [Obama] was totally out of step."
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