White House Didn’t Have MA-Sen Health Care Contingency Plan

January 28, 2010 12:59 p.m.

The White House had no contingency plan for health care reform if Democrat Martha Coakley lost the special election in Massachusetts, and officials did not discuss the possibility a Democratic loss would dramatically imperil their legislative efforts, a top adviser said today.

President Obama’s senior advisor David Axelrod said there “wasn’t much discussion” about an alternative path to passing health care with just 59 Democrats in the Senate because there was “widespread assumption was that that seat was safe.”

“The truth is the flares went up about 10 days before that election,” Axelrod said during a briefing today with reporters and opinion-makers.“There wasn’t much discussion about the implications if the thing went the other way,” he said.

As we’ve reported, national Democrats blame Attorney General Martha Coakley and her staff for not running a more aggressive campaign. Axelrod said her camp only asked for Obama to campaign there for her the Thursday or Friday before the election.

“We were reliant on the campaign to tell us what their needs were and when they did, we responded,” he said. “Unfortunately it came late in the game.”

By then, Republican Scott Brown already had amassed the political momentum that helped him win the special election.

Axelrod said he was happy to take whatever blame people want to affix to the White House. He said the administration has been open about the need for “more robust intelligence gathering in the future” and that’s one reason former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe is stepping up his role in the leadup to the 2010 midterm elections.

We’ll have more soon from the Axelrod briefing, including the White House view of a path forward on health care now and a plan to be more aggressive highlighting Republican obstructionism.

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