Martha Coakley on Public Anger and Her Election Defeat

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Even if they still face an uphill climb on health care reform, Democrats have regained their footing since Scott Brown’s Senate victory in Massachusetts. Shortly after the election, it seems as though comprehensive reform was dead, at least for 2010. And now here we are talking about the not totally unrealistic Democratic strategy for getting it done in the next month, even without a supermajority in the Senate.

Brown’s surprise victory jolted his opponent, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, as much as anyone. I spoke to Coakley today for a story I’m working on unrelated to her race for Senate, reconciliation or national Democratic health care reform. But I couldn’t resist asking her about these topics toward the end of our interview.

Of the health care reform debate in Washington that’s ongoing, in part, because she lost to Brown:

“I think it’s very challenging to say the least…as we get a little bit of distance from my election and we sort out what happened and didn’t happen. I have some lessons myself to learn about what the public expects from me.”

On her defeat specifically:

“Nobody knows better than I the level of frustration out there…There were larger issues around the public’s anger at the economy…But as much as people are seemingly irate, the work still has to go on…I would hate to see if some sort of paralysis sets in.”

On what lawmakers can do to better react to public anger over the slow economic recovery:

“Communicate better to the public about why it’s taking longer than people would like.”

You got that Democrats who are up for re-election this fall? (Coakley is one of them, by the way.)