President Barack Obama's top political adviser said Friday he's confident the Democrats will hold a U.S. Senate seat in a Massachusetts special election, and suggested that Obama can help there because he remains popular in the heavily Democratic state.
Obama will travel to Massachusetts Sunday to campaign with Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley, locked in a surprisingly tough race with Republican Scott Brown for the Senate seat once held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Obama adviser David Axelrod told reporters Friday evening that Coakley is being hurt by anti-incumbent sentiment due to the recession and high unemployment rates.
"This is a difficult political environment right now because it's a difficult economy," Axelrod said. "There's an anti-incumbent kind of fervor out there. Having been a statewide elected official, the attorney general is the quasi incumbent in the race."
He said he Brown has managed to avoid being tarred with the same brush.
"I give the Republican candidate credit," he said. "He's been very crafty in that regard and he's managed to avoid a lot of scrutiny himself until this week."
Despite the sour mood, he said, Obama remains more popular in Massachusetts than he does nationally.
"I'm pleased that in that environment, from the polling I've seen, the president has 65 percent favorable rating in the state, an approval rating in the 60s," he said. "I'm confident she’s going to win."
Coakley called Axelrod Friday to ask for the president’s help, and Obama readily agreed.
He called Coakley someone "who has spent a lifetime standing up for people, fighting banks, fighting insurance companies, fighting all manner of special interests who prey on everyday people."
And he lashed out at Brown for opposing Obama’s proposal to levy a tax on big banks to recoup bailout money.
"If he came here, he'd just be another vote for the special interests," Axelrod said.