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No, Obama hasn’t forgotten about Martha Coakley’s loss to Scott Brown

President Obama campaigned with Democratic US Senate candidate Martha Coakley in January 2010. Coakley lost the special election to Republican Scott Brown.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File/Globe Staff

More than six years later, President Obama still recalls the Fenway Park reference.

It was 2010. Then-Attorney General Martha Coakley, a Democrat, was vying for the Senate seat that Ted Kennedy held for 47 years against Republican state Senator Scott Brown.

In response to a suggestion her campaign was being too passive, Coakley, in an apparent reference to a Brown campaign video, said “As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?”

Obama, in a wide-ranging interview with New York magazine that focuses on five days that shaped his presidency, said once he learned of that quote, he knew Coakley’s campaign was in trouble.


“We figured that wasn’t a good bellwether of how things might go,” Obama told the magazine in a piece that was published online Sunday night.

By the time Obama flew to Massachusetts to stump for Coakley, the president said “it was already clear that there were going to be problems there.”

Problems, indeed. Coakley lost the race to Brown; Democrats at the time worried the defeat, which cost them a supermajority in the Senate, would imperil Obama’s agenda, including health care reform. In the New York piece, Obama said once it became clear the Massachusetts race was going to be difficult for Coakley, the White House began “doing some contingency planning.”

Obama told the magazine Brown’s victory reiterated an important political lesson.

“The loss in Massachusetts reminded me of what any good president and any good elected official needs to understand: You’ve got to pay attention to public opinion, and you have to able to communicate those ideas,” he said.