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Moulton drops out of presidential race after struggling to gain traction

Moulton drops out of presidential race after struggling to gain traction
© Greg Nash

Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonOvernight Defense: Iran talks set up balancing act for Biden | Pentagon on alert amid Russian saber rattling | Lawmakers urge Pentagon to be pickier about commanders' requests for more troops Is it okay to waste infrastructure dollars? Lawmakers want Pentagon, DOJ to punish current, former military members who participated in riot MORE (D-Mass.) announced Friday he will drop out of the 2020 presidential contest, making him the third candidate in a little more than a week to exit the Democratic primary.

"Today, I want to use this opportunity, with all of you here, to announce that I am ending my campaign for president," Moulton is expected to say later in the day at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting in San Francisco.

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"Though this campaign is not ending the way we hoped, I am leaving this race knowing that we raised issues that are vitally important to the American people and our future."

Moulton, a Harvard-educated Marine veteran, launched his bid for the Democratic nomination in April. But his candidacy never gained traction and he failed twice to make the debate stage. With the deadline to qualify for the third primary debates in September fast approaching, Moulton was almost certain to fall short once again. 

His exit from the race was first reported on Friday by The New York Times.

He’s the third candidate since last week to exit the nominating contest. On Aug. 15, former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperLobbying world DNC taps veteran campaign hands for communications staff Harris casts tiebreaking vote to advance Biden nominee MORE ended his presidential bid, and on Wednesday, Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeWashington bans open carry of weapons at state capitol, public protests Washington state to provide free menstrual hygiene products in school bathrooms Cuomo signs legislation restoring voting rights to felons upon release from prison MORE did the same, saying in an appearance on MSNBC that he no longer saw a viable path to the nomination.

All three men will seek other offices in 2020. Moulton said on Friday that he will run for reelection to his House seat. Inslee is expected to seek a third term as governor, while Hickenlooper announced on Thursday that he would mount a Senate bid in Colorado. 

Moulton, who won his House seat in 2014 after ousting Democratic incumbent John TierneyJohn F. TierneyYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Moulton drops out of presidential race after struggling to gain traction Stanley McChrystal endorses Moulton for president MORE in a primary, made a name for himself in Congress as a kind of maverick willing to criticize his own party’s leadership, most notably Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Inflation jumps at fastest pace since 2008 | Biden 'encouraged' on bipartisan infrastructure deal Overnight Health Care: CDC approves Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12-15 | House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill | Panel blasts COVID-19 response Biden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure MORE (D-Calif.).

Prior to announcing his White House bid, speculation swirled that he could seek to challenge Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeySenators ask airlines to offer cash refunds for unused flight credits Civilian Climate Corps can help stem rural-urban divide Senate votes to nix Trump rule limiting methane regulation MORE (D-Mass.) for his seat in 2020. He opted instead to enter the already-crowded Democratic presidential field.

Throughout his campaign, he struggled to break out in polls and in fundraising. Most surveys showed him lingering at around 1 percent support or less. And in the second quarter of the year, his campaign reported a $1.2 million fundraising haul, putting him among the race’s lowest fundraisers.

In a memo sent to reporters on Friday, Moulton’s campaign acknowledged that he “always faced long odds” in his bid for the Democratic nomination, citing the congressman’s relatively late entrance into the race and low name recognition in the race of high-profile rivals.

In an interview with the Times, Moulton said he had no immediate plans to endorse another candidate in the race, but noted that three candidates — former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says Beau's assessment of first 100 days would be 'Be who you are' Biden: McCarthy's support of Cheney ouster is 'above my pay grade' Conservative group sues over prioritization of women, minorities for restaurant aid MORE, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care: CDC approves Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12-15 | House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill | Panel blasts COVID-19 response Briahna Joy Gray: Warren not endorsing Sanders in 2020 was 'really frustrating' House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill MORE (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren says Republican party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' Briahna Joy Gray: Warren not endorsing Sanders in 2020 was 'really frustrating' McConnell hits Democratic critics of Israel MORE (D-Mass.) — were on track to dominate the field.

“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, 40, said.

In a separate interview with The Washington Post, Moulton spoke fondly of Biden, who like Moulton represents a more centrist-minded wing of the Democratic Party. Biden, he said, “would make a fantastic president.”

“He’s a mentor and a friend, and I’ve been impressed by the campaign he has run so far,” Moulton said.