Moulton drops out of presidential race after struggling to gain traction

Rep. Seth Moulton (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.

"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 Hickenlooper ended his presidential bid, and on Wednesday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee 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 Tierney 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 Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Prior to announcing his White House bid, speculation swirled that he could seek to challenge Sen. Ed Markey (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 Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (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.