In a winning campaign every move is brilliant, and in a losing campaign every move is a blunder. But Democrats caught off guard by the tight race in Massachusetts to replace liberal icon Sen. Ted Kennedy insist that the problem lies in large part with their candidate, Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Some of the Coakley criticism is specific: Scott Brown was up on the television airwaves with positive, defining ads earlier, and he held more campaign events in December after winning the nomination. But some of the complaints center on Coakley’s personality and speaking style, which convey insufficient enthusiasm.
“She is not someone who is likely to go the pub and buy everyone a round, but neither is John Kerry,” said Coakley supporter Lawrence DiCara, a former Boston city council member and veteran of Democratic politics in the Bay State.
“She’s much more like John Kerry than she is like Ted Kennedy,” he said.Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic consultant not affiliated with the race, said Coakley made a “big strategic mistake” waiting to put ads on television.
Coakley allies describe her not as lacking enthusiasm but as a careful speaker, a result of years spent as a prosecutor. They say she’s a hard worker, not a backslapper. By contrast Brown is called “polished,” and has pulled in an online following that’s earned him both cash and attention.
Similar critiques emerged in Democratic circles last fall when state Sen. Creigh Deeds was tanking in the polls in the Virginia governor’s race, a problem that didn’t emerge, or at least wasn’t mentioned, when Deeds was polling better. Back biting goes with the territory when a campaign is struggling.
We checked in with a host of Massachusetts voters and TPMDC readers who offered their assessment of the Coakley campaign, with the most frequent description being “lackluster”:
Reader BL told TPMDC that Coakley made a “huge mistake” to “basically let Brown run unimpeded from December 8 until around January 6,” giving the Republican nearly a month to define himself.
Reader CF disagreed, saying the race is hinging on independents who are not happy with what’s happening in Washington. “She may have run a lackluster campaign (and that is attributable to her), but any Dem would be having a hard time.”
Reader BP of Boylston plans to vote for Coakley “without a shred of enthusiasm,” saying her campaign feels “incredibly stale and conventional” compared with Brown’s which seem “fresh and appealing by contrast.”
Reader PM said Coakley was “invisible” until last week and that her fight now “looks like bitter nervousness.”
Reader VS said, “There is simply no enthusiasm in the campaign” while GF claimed to be “terribly uninspired by Coakley.”
Reader SD “will vote for her while holding my nose.”
Additional reporting by Mark Bergen.