Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) is the latest white male candidate to join the massive Democratic primary field for president, billing himself as a young outsider with fresh ideas and military experience.
Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran, three-term Congress member from the Bay State, and outspoken opponent of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, made his presidential bid official in a video released today.
“Ask anyone who’s lost their job to a changing economy or a child to opioids or has to choose between heat and food in the winter, they’re feeling forgotten,” Moulton said. “We need to restore our moral authority in everything we do. Whether it’s appointing a Cabinet member, negotiating a treaty or signing an executive order, I will always uphold America’s values.”
He’s entering a large primary field as an outsider candidate. The 40-year-old Moulton is leaning heavily on his youth and military service, calling for a new generation of leadership in the White House. It’s a similar message to when he and others tried to recruit a Pelosi challenger earlier this year.
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 was too entrenched at the top — and younger members of the House were squandering their talents waiting decades to ascend to a committee chair position, never mind House leadership.
So it’s telling that both Moulton and Tim Ryan, the congressman from Ohio who challenged Pelosi for House minority leader in 2016, are now pursuing much larger political ambitions. Ryan announced his campaign for president the first week of April, presenting himself as the Democratic answer to Trump in the Midwest by focusing on bringing back factory jobs. Moulton is pitching himself as someone with the right combination of military and legislative experience to deliver for Americans.
Moulton’s 2020 bid is a long shot; He’s entering a Democratic primary field that’s nearly 20 candidates strong. And he’s joining a host of lesser-known members of Congress, including Reps. Ryan, Eric Swalwell (D-CA), and John Delaney (D-MD). Ryan was allied with Moulton in their shared attempt to recruit someone to challenge Pelosi during the 2019 speakership race, though neither wanted to run themselves.
“This election was a call for change,” Moulton told reporters at a Massachusetts town hall after the 2018 midterms, as he was openly calling 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.”
Moulton will now pitch fresh leadership in the White House. The only problem is the 18 other Democratic candidates running.
Moulton’s presidential campaign is focused on veterans issues and voting rights
While Tim Ryan wants to reclaim disenchanted Trump voters in the Rust Belt, Moulton is running on his national security experience, to appealing to America’s veterans. His platform is also focused on jobs and the economy, fixing the nation’s infrastructure, and implementing a public option to improve access to health care.
Moulton, an Iraq War veteran, has made veterans issues one of his top priorities while in the House. He has also campaigned for a number of veterans running for the House in 2018. He’s close to former high-up military brass including retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who endorsed him in his 2014 congressional race, and retired Gen. David Petraeus, whom he worked for directly during his tour in Iraq.
Even though Moulton has spent much of his time in the House lambasting Pelosi (he has become more complimentary since her handling of the government shutdown), one of his policy priorities in a 2020 election is nearly identical to one Pelosi and House Democrats put forward as their first bill of the year: a sweeping pro-democracy reform bill to expand voting access for Americans.
That bill, known as the For the People Act, or HR 1, was recently passed overwhelmingly by House Democrats but is being blocked in the US Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring it up.
Citing his exploratory travels to the early primary state of South Carolina, Moulton recently unveiled a similar plan to CNN — one that would implement automatic voter registration, make Election Day a national holiday, restore felons’ voting rights, and grant statehood to Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico.
“From gerrymandering and the Electoral College to voter suppression, especially in communities of color, many Americans don’t believe their votes count,” Moulton told CNN. “And in some places, it’s still easier to buy a gun than cast a vote. That’s wrong. It’s undemocratic. And it’s why we need a New Voting Rights Act in America.”
It’s a pitch that helped Democrats take back the House in 2018. Whether it can carry Moulton to the top of a crowded Democratic field, however, remains to be seen.