Long before the polls closed Tuesday, Democrats already were pointing fingers at each other for election losses.
The White House told candidates it is their fault, not President Obama’s, if they fall to Republican opponents. Progressives shot back that Mr. Obama failed to “define any agenda” for his party. They also went a step further by declaring Democrats need to remake the party in the “image” of populist hero Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, and urged the president to move to the left in the final two years of his tenure.
The blame game comes after a campaign season in which the president, with a few notable exceptions, largely was missing in action on the stump. Powerful liberal groups now say that Mr. Obama could have had a tangible impact on the election if only he’d played a larger role in laying out Democrats’ vision for the future.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a rising force on the left and the biggest champion of Mrs. Warren and other populist liberals, took direct aim at Mr. Obama while pushing wholesale changes in the Democratic Party.
“The White House failed to define any agenda for voters in 2014,” the PCCC said in a statement. “Progressives will remold the Democratic Party in Elizabeth Warren’s image — focused on big ideas and popular economic issues. We’ll organize in New Hampshire and Iowa to ensure that all Democrats running for president take a position on Warren’s populist agenda of reforming Wall Street, reducing student debt, and expanding Social Security benefits.”
But the White House clearly views Tuesday’s election results much differently.
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As Americans headed to the polls, administration officials shot back at liberal critics and argued that any candidate who blames Mr. Obama’s low approval ratings for electoral defeat should instead look in the mirror.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest specifically singled out Democratic gubernatorial candidates, some of whom the president has personally stumped for over the past few weeks.
“Ultimately, it’s the quality of these candidates that is going to be the driver of success in this election … the president was looking to be supportive of these Democratic candidates for governor. But ultimately, it is these governors or these candidates whose record is on the ballot,” Mr. Earnest said.
The White House also maintains that Tuesday’s elections — including races for governor, Senate and House — are not a true referendum on Mr. Obama’s record and should not be judged as such.
“The vast majority of voters are making a decision on election day based on the merits associated with the candidates at the top of the ballot,” Mr. Earnest said.
Other liberal groups also say individual candidates are to blame, mainly because they didn’t embrace a populist message passionately enough, or did so too late.
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“Democrats face an uncertain election tonight because too many ran too little and too late on Elizabeth Warren-inspired populist progressive priorities like expanding Social Security benefits, breaking up the big banks and student loan reform that polls show are overwhelmingly popular with Americans,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the liberal PAC Democracy for America.
“The lessons Democrats should take from tonight’s election are already clear — Americans are demanding an aggressive response to the country’s income inequality crisis and the key to Democrats winning in 2016 will be delivering one.”