If you think I was harsh comparing Martha Coakley to Creigh Deeds, take a peek at Gail Collins’s rant today. She says that Coakley “is the kind of candidate who reminds you that the state that gave birth to John Kennedy also produced Michael Dukakis.” She grumbles:
She is the attorney general, and her speaking style has been compared to that of a prosecutor delivering a summation to the jury. In civil court. In a trial that involved, say, a dispute over widget tariffs.
She is so tone deaf that she made fun of her opponent for standing outside Fenway Park shaking hands “in the cold.” A week before the election, Coakley was off the campaign trail entirely in Washington for a fund-raiser that was packed with the usual suspects. But undoubtedly it was well heated. … This week Coakley unleashed a hard-hitting ad that charged Brown with being, um, a Republican. Brown’s hard-hitting response charged Coakley with running a negative ad. He is generally thought to have gotten the best of that round, especially given that little mishap with the spelling of the name of the state.
Collins is, I suspect, representative of most Democrats, who now realize that Coakley could lose. And just as they began to trash Creigh Deeds in advance of the election to insulate the White House from blame, they’re putting the potential catastrophe on the shoulders of the candidate in Massachusetts. But to her credit, Collins hints that there’s no escaping the source of the Democrats’ angst: “The people who voted for Barack Obama, meanwhile, are sullen and dispirited. This is, of course, partly because of the economy, but also partly because of the sense that the president is not getting anything done.” And it’s partly because he didn’t turn out to be anything special — not a motivational presence post-election, not an eloquent leader of liberalism, and not someone who cared much about hewing to any of his campaign themes (e.g., transparency, not taxing non-rich people).
There is, as Collins notes, a huge imbalance in enthusiasm. The Republicans in Massachusetts are pumped up and can taste a huge upset. The Democrats alternate between panic and despondency. You’ll see more of this, I suspect, in many more races this year. And after a while, it’ll be hard, even for the most ardent media spinner, to blame failure on each and every one of the Democratic candidates.