Coakley Owns ‘Heartbreaking’ Election Loss

Martha Coakley concedes in Boston on Tuesday after losing the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. (AP)

BOSTON — Two days after losing Massachusetts’ U.S. Senate seat to underdog Republican Scott Brown, Attorney General Martha Coakley said she owns her loss. In an interview with WBUR, Coakley credited Brown’s appealing message and acknowledged that health care reform divides voters.

“(Tuesday) evening is still heartbreaking to me,” Coakley said. “As we continue our Wednesday, Thursday, Friday morning quarterbacking on it, we need to take a look at this. I own, certainly, some of this, if not all of it.”

Coakley said she did not take the race for granted, despite frequent criticism to the contrary. She pointed to her success in the Democratic primary, which she won by 19 points. But she said she would have approached her campaign differently, in retrospect.

“I would have engaged Scott Brown sooner, both on television and in the day-to-day battles of what this race was about,” Coakley said. “But every campaign is in real time and, because we lost, we did not run a good campaign.”

Coakley said her opponent ran a great campaign.

“Voters responded to him very well. He was effective with television advertising and with media. He was a new face for folks. And he had a message that people wanted to hear,” Coakley said.

While she acknowledged that health care was a key issue in the campaign, Coakley was unwilling to assume responsibility for the ultimate success or failure of the legislation.

“I think this race was clearly a test for (health care),” Coakley said. “In the end, if I’m supporting health care and I believe in it, and voters don’t want it, and someone on the other side marshals that, then there’s other conclusions people can draw.”

Brown campaigned on a promise to be the 41st vote Republicans need to stop the Democrats from passing their health care plan.

Coakley also said Brown’s sudden surge in fund-raising changed the abbreviated campaign.

“Two to three weeks out, as our numbers started to slip, we recognized this was going to be a real race,” Coakley said. “We needed more resources, and we got some of them, but by the end of this race Scott Brown had about $13 million coming in to help him win. We ended up with $4 million.”

Since the defeat, Coakley said she has not been paying attention to the criticism of her performance — much of it from fellow Democrats.

“I knew that if we lost this, there would be focus on me for a lot of reasons,” Coakley said. “That’s fine. I’ve done this before.”

Coakley said she plans to get right back to work as attorney general, and she recently announced she will run for re-election later this year.

“I felt very strongly, given what I’d seen as attorney general, that we needed to move faster on regulating Wall Street and getting health care that made sense for everybody,” Coakley said. “The voters decided otherwise, but those are issues that have totally energized me. I believe I can continue to work on the state level and with other attorney generals on them.”

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  • Patrick


    I’m a life-long Democrat and now live in California. I’ve make many $$$ contributions to various candidates of the Democratic party, and I support my President.

    That being said, I could not in good conscience support Coakley’s candidacy as I knew from numerous reports that she had done such an incredibly terrible job with the 1984 sex crime case, keeping innocent and hard-working people in prison even when it was so clear to the man on the street that these people were innocent.

    What surprises me so much is that the Democratic party in Massachusetts supported her candidacy to replace Ted Kennedy. Surely there is someone else who better represents the good people of Massachusetts?! I hate to say it, but I’m glad she lost.

    Best to everyone ….


  • mary

    It was clear to me as a democrat Martha Coakley did not have the resources nor the outreach she needed to win.

    There were a lack of signs and local people calling to get out the vote. I am not surprised Martha lost ground in Boston when 80,000 fewer voters didn’t cast their ballots in this election as they did for Obama in 2008.

    Why weren’t state &local officials working their districts for Martha?? And what about the Whitehouse –if this seat was so important to Obama’s agenda why wasn’t the National Headquarters involved?

    And in looking at the turnout in surrounding towns those towns that came in strong for Brown were often times Re-publican strongholds like Sherborn & Peabody. Yet I real-ize this wasn’t always the case as in Bridgewater and Weymouth.

    Let’s not forget Massachusetts has a huge college age
    population whom it seemed weren’t called upon to vote.

    Yes. it was winter break but shouldn’t that population have been called upon ahead of time? That would have made sense.

    If all this had happened Brown would never have taken Ted
    Kennedy’s seat away–absolutely never! Indeed, I can’t see how he can present himself in Washington as represent-
    ing Massachusetts when a great portion of the voters didn’t even cast their ballots.

    In addition, I would caution him and the Republicans if they continue to try and derail Obama’s agenda they will lose that seat in 2012… Mary

  • AEB

    Many are viewing Martha’s loss as a sign that voters are against healthcare reform. In a state that ensures some level of universal healthcare, this is certainly not the case. Rather, Scott Brown won out of anger due to the economy and lack of voter turnout for the democrates. The connection being made between Martha’s loss and healthcare reform should stop as it is unsubstantiated and is detrimental to the progress of any national healthcare reform.

  • Andy

    I’m not surprised that Martha Coakley lost this race. As a Democrat, I voted for her solely based on party lines. In the primary, my vote went for Michael Capuano as he had the passion for the issues whereas Martha Coakley lacked enthusiasm and any sort of energizing charisma needed to face the surging Brown campaign.

    I’m not solidly convinced that Brown won due to the heated health care debate as Massachusetts already has universal health care. It has more to do with the uninspiring personality of Coakley and her somnolent campaign. Many voters were simply uninspired and the reliable voters were the ones angry enough to cast their ballots for Brown.

  • Jane Hammond

    Martha Coakley lost because she ran a lousy campaign. Even when she had all the money she did not put her all into the campaign. Her ads were lackluster and stilted, like she was. Having never run a tough campaign before she should have enlisted some pros, not just her close aids. It is clear she did not enjoy getting out among the people, first because she hardly ever did it and second because she seemed to be in pain when she had to shake hands with voters. Scott Brown LOVED going around the State and talking to everyone and anyone who would stop to chat. He reminds me of a college frat boy, having fun and enjoying himself. Let’s hope he’s more serious than he seems. Martha felt she was entitled to this job and that’s how she came across. From her many comments it looks like she hasn’t learned that lesson. Let’s hope she gets back to her day job and gives it her all. The people of this Commonwealth deserve the best from our elected officials.

  • jemimah

    I agree with Jane that Scott Brown is like a really affable frat guy…the kind everyone likes until his true colors come out. And what about the fact that he supported the Massachusetts health care plan–a plan from which much was taken for the national plan? Has he been asked to explain this?

  • jay

    You democrats are awful losers. You are always trying to demean people that you do not agree with.
    You are probably big Keith Olbermann fans.
    Do you ever sometimes think that is why independents do not want any thing to do with you?

  • David Kimball

    The Democrats didn’t lose on Tuesday, they lost at the time that Coakley won the primary. Why can’t the Mass Democratic Party come up with candidates that the people want rather than what the Party wants? Can’t the Mass Democratic Party realize that party candidates are a thing of the past? They did the same thing when Romney ran. They put up a person that couldn’t connect with the voters.

    If the voters don’t see a change in their lives, Patrick won’t win either. The Democratic Party has to realize that it must paint pictures for people – not just cite stats. It must paint the problems as the people see them – as problems with the financial institutions, with businesses that only look out for themselves, etc. Patrick has a chance, but only if the Democrats start picturing the problems as felt by the voters.

    Coakley failed to paint a picture of the health care bill as being good for people and bad if not passed.

  • dv

    The ONLY reason Scott Brown won in the most progressive state is because of money from people out of Massachusetts, and he covered himself up to appeal to independents–but actually he is ultra conservative, doesn’t believe in global warming, supports water-boarding–and all he wants to do is block Obama’s agenda


  • sk

    Global Warming! Are you still talking that nonsense?
    Today, the United Nations came out with more errors and lies about their findings!
    And you people wonder why you lost. lol

  • bix dugan

    I am a Massachusetts native and independent voter who has lived on the west coast for 20 of the past 24 years and remains connected with home. Coakley lost badly because she was a bad candidate who ran a bad campaign, but given the massive unpopopularity of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid trokia’s agenda it is likely that a good democratic candidate who ran a good campaign would still have lost or barely won. Just listen to the exit polling that went on, with repeated comments about restoring the balance of power in Washington, etc.

    So, the blame her versus blame Obama et. al. argument misses the point that the particular circumstances surrounding this race simply excerberated the problem and did not cause it. Dems who take away the wrong message from January’s contest are going to be November’s losers.

    That said, it is refreshing that Coakley is owning up to her own responsibility here. Would that her colleagues had the honsety to do the same.

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