Who’s most at fault for the debacle of the Coakley campaign? For some, that question may come too early, since the voting has only just begun. As Politico reports, though, Democrats don’t want to wait for the body to stop twitching before doing a post-mortem. Blame has already begun to splash on Coakley herself, but also the DSCC, party pollsters — and Barack Obama himself:
As voters head to the polls in Massachusetts, nervous Democrats have already begun to blame one another for putting at risk the Senate seat Ted Kennedy held for more than 40 years.
Many angry Democrats blame their candidate, state Attorney General Martha Coakley, for running a sluggish campaign that let Republican Scott Brown set the contours of the race.
Some Democratic strategists lay the fault at the feet of President Barack Obama, saying he should have done more to sell the party’s agenda.
And in private conversations, Hill sources say White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has blamed Coakley, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake for failing to see Brown’s surge in time to stop it.
“With the legislative and political stakes so high, it’s unbelievable that the Senate committee and White House let this race get so out of hand,” said one senior Washington Democrat. “There’s a lot of blame to go around. Martha Coakley is only one of the problems here.”
The axiom instructs that success has a thousand fathers, while failure is an orphan. In politics, paternity tests abound after massive, unexpected failures, and failure may have a thousand parents in this case.
Coakley makes an easy target, of course, and it’s not at all unreasonable to lay the blame at the feet of the candidate, especially this one. Not only did she fail to do the basic retail politicking — in fact, showering scorn on the notion of shaking hands in the cold at Fenway Park at one nadir of her final week — but she couldn’t be bothered to carry out the tasks that would have allowed others to do so on her behalf:
Coakley was so confident, noted one fuming Democrat, that she even stopped the critical task of identifying supporters on the phone following the primary — the very foundation on which she should have structured her turnout operation.
Reader Geoff A points out that this is practically “Elections 101”, and especially important for GOTV efforts in the final hours. Campaigns need these lists to be as accurate as possible in order to prompt their own supporters to get to the polls on Election Day, and to target leaners for an extra round of inspiration. They can also focus efforts to convince the opponent’s supporters and leaners to change their minds, or at least demotivate them from going to the polls.
This underscores the impression that everyone has of the Coakley campaign — that she folded her tents after beating Michael Capuano in the primaries, just assuming that the Democrat would win the seat. It’s the height of arrogance, and in this case, ignorance as well.
That doesn’t let others off the hook, though. Why didn’t the DSCC intervene earlier? They finally spent $2.5 million attempting to rescue Coakley from her self-imposed drowning, but as Rahm Emanuel apparently has fumed, their pollsters should have been on top of this race much sooner. There is only one Senate seat to be decided today, the only one for months ahead and for a full year prior to this. What exactly were they doing?
DSCC chair Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) says the lesson they learned was that candidates need to be aggressive even in the bluest states, because the electorate is, er, volatile. But what made them that way? The Democrats have held full power for over a year, and controlled Congress for more than three years. It’s the agenda that made deep-blue Massachusetts revolt against their Democratic elites — and the failure of Barack Obama to either change course or control Nancy Pelosi.
Even if Brown loses today, all of these points are obvious. Will the Democrats learn from them? The only lesson they seem to have taken is to go negative against Tea Party activists and demonize Wall Street, Sarah Palin, and George Bush. That is a perfect recipe for losing the largest number of seats in Congress when the entire nation gets the opportunity that Massachusetts voters get today.