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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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This program aired on January 21, 2010.
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