Clinton campaign, Democrats play the blame game

Clinton did win the popular vote by almost 500,000

(CNN) – It’s fair to say most Democrats were stunned by this week’s election results. So, what could they learn from Donald Trump’s defeat of a Democratic Party powerhouse?

There is one question above all inside a decimated Democratic Party: who’s to blame? There may be more than enough to go around for one of the biggest defeats in political memory.

In calls with donors and supporters, CNN has learned campaign chair John Podesta says FBI director James Comey reviving the email controversy cost Hillary Clinton the election, by turning away some of her wavering supporters.

Some allies agree. Rep. Steve Israel, (D) New York, says, “I was in Clinton headquarters just a few days before the election, and we were looking at data that was very favorable. The Comey announcement had kind of turned that data in a different direction.”

Yet others believe the blame begins with Clinton and her campaign. Jane Sanders, at her husband’s side during the long Democratic primary fight with Clinton, not mincing words Friday. “People are hungry for new direction. I think that’s why Trump has won this election. They want change.”

As a new political order falls over Washington, Democrats are looking back – before they can look forward.

Two central questions: why did college-educated voters turn away from Clinton at the end? And why did working class voters – even Democrats long friendly to the Clintons – go another way?

Rep. Debbie Dingell, (D) Michigan, says, “In the end they were scared. They cared about their job, they’re tired of the status quo and they voted to shake it up and to have someone who understood that they were scared and was going to care about them.”

CNN has learned there is also considerable second guessing about not paying closer attention to Bill Clinton’s advice – to spend more time focusing on disaffected white, working-class voters who were the lifeblood of his campaigns.

Now, for the first time in a generation, the Democratic Party is moving forward – without a Clinton in the mix.

Friday, an early scramble to lead the Democratic National Committee. Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison, Labor secretary Tom Perez, and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley – among the early names eyeing bids.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer throwing their support behind Ellison, a Muslim and leading liberal, who could be the face of the opposition to Donald Trump. It was Ellison – more than a year ago – who suggested on a Sunday talk show President Trump was a possibility. “Anybody from the Democratic side of the fence who is terrified of the possibility of President Trump better vote, better get active, better get involved because this man has got some momentum and we better be ready.”

Clinton did win the popular vote by almost 500,000. But in the end…it was all about the electoral votes. Donald Trump reached the 270 required to win the presidency.

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