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Coakley Pollster Defends Campaign Against White House

The blame game is fully underway. A top pollster to Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley told HuffPost on Tuesday that the White House, in attempting to blame the Coakley campaign for a potential defeat today in Massachusetts, underestimates the wave of populist fury among Massachusetts voters.

Pollster Celinda Lake said Coakley was hampered by the failure of the White House and Congress to confront Wall Street. That failure, she said, means that Democrats are being blamed by angry independent voters worried about the state of the economy.

"If Scott Brown wins tonight he'll win because he became the change-oriented candidate. Voters are still voting for the change they voted for in 2008, but they want to see it. And right now they think they've got economic policies for Washington that are delivering more for banks than Main Street."

Asked about reported criticism from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Lake said she had seen the stories. "I think it's a circling squad to protect the White House. I don't think it's very useful," she said, mixing a metaphor while getting across a clear message.

Lake said that the problem for Democrats is that voters are blaming them for the nation's poor economic conditions. "2010 is fast turning out to be a blame election and I think that either we are going to characterize who deserves the blame - whether that's banks and lobbyists and people who still want to hold on to national Republican economic strategies - or we're going to get the blame. And that's a very different tone than, often, the administration is comfortable with," she said.

The feeling among voters, said Lake, is that Washington prioritizes Wall Street over Main Street and that, despite Coakley's credentials as a state attorney general who has taken on and beaten Wall Street banks, sending her to Washington would not make a difference. "On the eve of the election, Martha Coakley had a 21-point advantage over Scott Brown on who would fight Wall Street and deliver for Main Street. But it didn't predict to the vote, because voters thought, even if they sent her down here that it wouldn't happen. 'Fine, she had done it in Massachusetts, but no one was doing it in Washington,'" Lake said. "Voters are voting for change and we have to go back to that change message. And we have to deliver on change, especially an economic policy that serves working people."

Lake pointed to polling released by the Economic Policy Institute showing that 65 percent of Americans though the stimulus served banks interests, 56 percent thought it served corporations and only ten percent that it benefited them. "That is a formula for failure for the Democrats. We have to deliver on economic policies that take on Wall Street and we have to do it for five months, not just five days. We really have to deliver on the policies," she said.

The tit-for-tat over tactics, said Lake, risks missing the wave that is headed toward Democrats. "There's a lot of blame to go around, but the point of the matter is there's a wave. And that wave: it hit Virginia; it hit New Jersey; it hit Massachusetts," she said.

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