Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said Sunday that Democrats' message in the presidential election failed to "penetrate" voters.

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"Our message of strengthen the middle-class working people, we just didn't penetrate well enough. We didn't have the kind of turnout that we really needed or expected," Ellison told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week."

When asked if Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCountering the ongoing Republican delusion Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future MORE lost the election to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' MORE due to the FBI's late release of a letter about the investigation into her use of a private email server, Ellison said "it did not help."

"It certainly changed the conversation," he said.

FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to lawmakers late last month alerting them that the investigation into Clinton's use of a private server while secretary of State was under new review. One week before the election, Comey announced the FBI would not change its original July conclusion not to recommend charges against Clinton in the case.

Ellison did not blame Clinton's loss on the letter but said it took away the focus that should have been on voters.

"The conversations should have been about middle-class people," he said.