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Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton abandons his presidential bid

Moulton struggled to gain traction in a crowded field.

Rep. Seth Moulton Begins Presidential Campaign With Campaign Event In NH
Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) arrives for a community project and campaign stop in New Hampshire in April.
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

After announcing his candidacy in April, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) has officially dropped out of the Democratic race for president.

Moulton — a Marine Corps veteran and three-term member of Congress who ran on his military experience — struggled to get his presidential campaign off the ground from the start. He failed to qualify for the first set of Democratic debates and barely registered in national and state polling.

He announced he would end his presidential bid to the New York Times’s Alexander Burns, stating concern that the strength of progressive stalwarts Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 presidential primary showed the Democratic Party is moving too far left.

“I think it’s evident that this is now a three-way race between Biden, Warren and Sanders, and really it’s a debate about how far left the party should go,” Moulton told the Times.

The Massachusetts Congress member joined the massive Democratic primary field this spring, billing himself as a young outsider with fresh ideas and military experience. He focused on a message of rebuilding America’s middle and working class.

His focus on being an outsider was similar to the message he pushed when he and others attempted to stage a coup of House Democratic leadership earlier this year, trying to recruit someone to challenge Nancy Pelosi’s return to the speakership (an attempt that failed).

Now that his presidential ambitions are over, Moulton said he will run for reelection in his House seat, but he could face a tough race this year. There’s no love lost between Moulton and Massachusetts Democrats angry at the Congress member for his role in a group trying to oust House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Part of the reason Moulton and his fellow Pelosi detractors tried to unseat the longtime House leader going into 2019 was a general complaint that party power had become too entrenched at the top — and that younger members of the House were squandering their talents while waiting decades to ascend to a committee chair position, never mind House leadership.

Moulton was one of a host of lesser-known members of Congress who sought or are continuing to seek 2020 bids, including Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), and John Delaney (D-MD). Swalwell, a close ally of Pelosi’s, was the first one to drop out — announcing on July 8 that he’d leave the presidential race to pursue his congressional seat again.

It’s telling that both Moulton and Ryan, the Congress member from Ohio who challenged Pelosi for House minority leader in 2016, tried to pursue much larger political ambitions.

“This election was a call for change,” Moulton told reporters at a Massachusetts town hall after the 2018 midterms, as he openly called for Pelosi to be replaced. “I think if our party answers that call, that call for change with the amazing victories we had across this country, by just saying we’re going to reinstall the same status quo leadership we’ve had since 2006, for over 10 years, I don’t think we’re answering the call of the American people.”

Now that Moulton is out of the 2020 race, he will try to go back to the US House of Representatives. But even that race may be a difficult one.

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