Axelrod, in a question and answer session with reporters, said it was too soon for “post-mortems” on the special election to fill the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s seat. And for the record, he said that he still expected Coakley to win.

But it didn’t take much reading between the lines to see that the president and his team are preparing to back-pedal as swiftly as humanly possible to distance Obama from a disastrous result tonight.

The Obama strategist volunteered praise for the Massachusetts Senate campaign run by the Republican, Scott Brown, and seemed to find nothing good to point to in the Democratic effort. He said he didn’t want to “delve deeply into post-mortems on the day people are voting.”