President Obama is "surprised and frustrated" by the tight Senate race in Massachusetts, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today.
White House officials said today Democratic candidate Martha Coakley's campaign should have alerted them earlier to the status of the race, which Republican Scott Brown now seems poised to win. Coakley's campaign, however, is charging that national Democrats let her down.
The president traveled to Massachusetts over the weekend to campaign for Coakley.
"The president laid out exactly what was at stake," Gibbs said at his daily briefing today. "For the people of Massachusetts, it's about electing somebody that will represent their interests in the United States Senate. And are you going to elect somebody who has consistently fought for middle- class, working-class interests, as you heard the president say, or somebody who campaigns as an independent and has voted 96 percent of the time with Republicans in the state Senate."
Meanwhile, in an interview with reporters today, White House senior adviser David Axelrod noted there were "local issues at play" in Massachusetts and complimented Brown's team for running "a very clever campaign."
He said Mr. Obama did all he could for Coakley.
"The White House did everything we were asked to do," Axelrod said, the Baltimore Sun reports. "I think if we had been asked earlier, we would have responded earlier."
That does not seem to be the opinion of the Coakley campaign, which pinned the candidate's sinking poll numbers on national Democrats, according to a Coakley campaign memo, Politico reports.
The memo claims the Democratic National Committee and other national Democratic organizations did not get involved in the race until last week, "much too late to aid Coakley operation." It also says the campaign provided national Democrats with polling information as far back as early December, and it pins Coakley's poor showing on national issues like health care reform and the war in Afghanistan.
"This memo is a pack full of lies and fantasies," a senior Democratic official said in response. "The DNC and the DSCC did everything they were asked and have been involved in the race for several weeks not just the last one - The campaign failed to recognize this threat, failed to keep Coakley on the campaign trail, failed to create a negative narrative about Brown, failed to stay on the air in December while he was running a brilliant campaign."
The official called the campaign "the worst debacle in American political history."
"The candidate in this race and the campaign have been involved in the worst case of political malpractice in memory and they aren't going to be able to spin themselves out of this with a memo full of lies," the official said.
More on the Massachusetts Senate Race:
Scott Brown's Surge Boosted by Dems' Failed Health Care Message
Massachusetts Election Brings High Turnout
If Brown Wins, What Happens to the Health Care Bill?
Brown Vs. Coakley: It's All About Enthusiasm
Brown, Coakley and the Supermajority
Coakley Trails Brown in Bellwether Polls
Obama's Agenda Hangs on Mass. Senate Race
Washington Unplugged: Scott Brown Win a Health Care "Stop Sign?"