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White House Downplays Scott Brown Victory

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
The victory by Republican Scott Brown in the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts is a political body blow to the White House. And it's even part of the morning-after spin.

"Scott Brown ran a great race, you can't take that away from him," a White House official tells CBS News.

In fact, the official concedes that Brown "tapped into the anger and anxiety Americans are feeling."

But in the White House view, that's the same "anger and anxiety" that helped Barack Obama reach the point a year ago today when he was inaugurated as the nation's chief executive.

"This is something the president is familiar with," says the official of voter feelings, "and it's why we won in 2008."

The White House doesn't dispute that it's easy to see yesterday's election results as a referendum on Mr. Obama and health care. But an official is quick to add that voters "very much like" Mr. Obama and that candidate Brown "never ran an ad on health care."

Brown did however proclaim that he would be the 41st Republican vote in the Senate against the health care bill the president wants.

Other officials say the White House "hears the messages" of yesterday's election results, though Senior Adviser to the President David Axelrod says "there's a tendency in this town to over blow" them.

On MSNBC this morning, Axelrod made it clear that Mr. Obama "will take into account what voters were saying yesterday," but will not walk away from his belief that there's a health care crisis and it has to be fixed.

Is the White House to blame for Coakley's defeat?

"We were not asked for assistance until the final ten days of the campaign," says an official, "by which time the Brown dynamic was well underway."

There was "a huge amount of activity for Coakley in the last 10 days of the race, "but not enough to make up for the time lost," the official said.

More Coverage:
GOP Win in Mass. Puts Dems on Defensive
A Signal for Dems to Tack Left or Right?
Scott Brown: Election Not Referendum on Obama
Political Lessons from Brown's Victory
Win Shows It's Not a Good Time to Be a Democrat
Scott Brown's Keys to Success
GOP Win Shakes Up Health Care Fight
David Plouffe: Dems Need to Step up and Lead
Brown Says Daughters Are "Available"


(CBS)
Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/markknoller.