By Jim Ellis
March 13, 2019 — While former New York City mayor and media magnate Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) both backed away from entering the presidential campaign because they couldn’t see a path for themselves to win the Democratic nomination, a different Democratic office holder appears to be taking the opposite view.Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Salem) was one of the leaders of the group who attempted to deny Nancy Pelosi a return to the speakership. Therefore, with little thought of becoming a factor in the current House Democratic majority, Moulton is looking at other opportunities.
While he didn’t expressly deny examining a potential primary challenge to Sen. Ed Markey (D) earlier in the year, such a move no longer appears to be on the congressman’s horizon. Rather, he appears to believe his chances might be a bit better in trying for the “big prize.”
Scheduling visits to neighboring New Hampshire and then over to Iowa in the coming weeks, Rep. Moulton is clearly testing the waters to enter the presidential race. And, according to reports from people close to his effort, a national campaign announcement is likely forthcoming at the end of April or beginning of May.
Rep. Moulton, who served four tours of duty in the Iraq War and saw significant combat action, is a liberal Democrat, but he seems to be a hybrid in falling between the socialist Democrats such as Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and his Massachusetts colleague Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and the former Blue Dog Democrats who trend more centrist.
Therefore, while Moulten may not play well before the Washington or New York Democratic base, the party has many voters around the country who might appreciate what the Massachusetts congressman has to say and where he stands. Thus, while Bloomberg and Sen. Brown may be correct in thinking they have no legitimate path to the nomination, obviously believing that former Vice President Joe Biden will enter the race at some point, the same might not be true for Moulten.
Though he may see a glimmer toward such a national path, his victory chances are still very slim at best. But, does he have the opportunity of using a 2020 presidential campaign as a platform to bring forth a more positive image of his own role as a political leader and provide a way to widen the Democratic Party’s appeal beyond the center-left and socialists.
Should he catch a small wave through the early caucuses and primaries, Rep. Moulton might be able to expand the party base and simultaneously set himself up for future elections. While he may not make it to the White House this cycle, his budding presidential campaign may pave the way for further political victories in Massachusetts.
Even now, because of his activity against Speaker Pelosi, challengers are already talking about launching a primary bid against him. Because Massachusetts has a September primary, Moulton could easily enter the presidential campaign and then have plenty of time to divert back into his congressional primary.
Former state Sen. Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover), who lost the open 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary to freshman Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Westford/Lowell), (she finished third of 10 candidates, and only 25 votes ahead of the fourth-place finisher) is considering launching a primary attack against Moulten from the adjoining district, an act of punishing him for attempting to thwart Pelosi and moving the party from its left flank.
While it is highly disputable whether L’Italien has the political support to overthrow Moulten in a 6th District primary, it is also probable that she will not be the only Democrat to challenge Moulten. Regardless of who runs against him, Rep. Moulton would be favored to prevail in the Democratic primary and certainly in the general election.
Rep. Seth Moulton was first elected in 2014 after defeating veteran incumbent John Tierney 51-40 percent in the Democratic primary after the latter man almost lost to a Republican candidate in 2012. Moulton has averaged 72.4 percent in his three general elections. If he proves vulnerable at all, it will be in the Democratic primary.