Meet the only candidate focused on national security: Seth Moulton

Meet the only candidate focused on national security: Seth Moulton
© Greg Nash

The Democratic Party is lucky to have so many qualified and experienced presidential candidates — Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonMarkey fundraises ahead of Kennedy primary challenge The Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight MORE of Massachusetts is one of them.

Moulton’s strongest credential is his military service. As a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, he did four combat tours in Iraq and earned two medals of valor for his service there. Moulton would be the first president who served in combat since George H.W. Bush.

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Moulton is only 40. For a man so young he has so much experience. The congressman from the North Shore of Massachusetts is one of the youngest Democratic presidential candidates. He has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2014 when he beat the incumbent Democratic incumbent in a hotly contested primary. He also has three degrees from Harvard University to go along with his military service.

Moulton is a longshot in the presidential race, and he may be running because he is looking for greener pastures outside of Congress. He has been a persistent critic of House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRomney: Trump asking Ukraine to investigate political rival 'would be troubling in the extreme' Pelosi: Whistleblower complaint 'must be addressed immediately' Democrats must embrace Israel and denounce anti-Semitism in the party MORE (D-Calif.) who is now in firm control there.

These days, the biggest threats to Pelosi’s leadership are from young first-term progressives led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.). But they supported her bid to become Speaker. The biggest threat to her campaign to become Speaker came from a group of centrist Democrats led by Moulton. The moderates were the nucleus of the unsuccessful bid to stop her from becoming Speaker.

He also faces the prospect of a tough primary fight to retain his membership in the House. Many Democratic female activists were upset that Moulton tried to block the ascension of a female Speaker. One of them, Massachusetts state Rep. Lori Ehrlich has announced that she will run for his seat whether he runs for re-election or not.

Service, security and patriotism

Moulton announced his intention to run for president on ABC’s Good Morning America, the day after Easter. He told host George Stephanopoulos that his campaign “is going to be anchored in service, in security and in patriotism.”

His focus, based on his military service, will be national security policy. Moulton has said he opposed the war in Iraq but he felt an obligation to his nation as a Marine to fight there anyway. 

His commitment to foreign policy issues will be a problem for his campaign. A recent national poll by CNN found that only 4 percent of the public said national security or foreign affairs was the most important consideration in their choice of a president. Candidates usually focus their campaigns for the White House on domestic policy issues like the economy and health care. But once they get there, they are pre-occupied with national security issues.

Moulton has echoed the words of Germany’s Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck who wrote “Anybody who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.”

Strategy 

Moulton will use his youth in his battle against the two 70-something frontrunners, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOmar: Biden not the candidate to 'tackle a lot of the systematic challenges that we have' Seven takeaways from a busy Democratic presidential campaign weekend in Iowa Democrats go all out to court young voters for 2020 MORE (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenUnited Auto Workers strike against GM poised to head into eighth day Trump doubles down on call to investigate Biden after whistleblower complaint: 'That's the real story' Omar: Biden not the candidate to 'tackle a lot of the systematic challenges that we have' MORE. He set up his campaign against Pelosi when he said, “The American people sent a very clear message in the election last week, that they want new approaches to politics and new leaders in Washington.”

There’s a generational war being fought in American politics, particularly within the Democratic Party. A battle rages between the boomers who run the party and the millennials who are the strongest Democratic partisans. The defeats of Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyOcasio-Cortez endorses challenger to Democrat Lipinski in Illinois race Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Ocasio-Cortez chief of staff to leave her office MORE in New York City and Mike Capuano in Boston by Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyDemocrats blast HUD for removing LGBT language from grant competition Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet Omar asks Twitter what it's doing in response to Trump spreading 'lies that put my life at risk' MORE (D-Mass.) were as much generational as they were ideological. Both incumbents had very good liberal voting records that were no match for younger and more energetic challengers in Democratic primaries.

Candidate Moulton will try to position himself as a moderate running against liberals. He told the Good Morning America audience “I’m not a socialist. I’m a Democrat.”

To become a player in the presidential race, he needs to do well in the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire and in Massachusetts, which is one of the early Super Tuesday primaries. To clear a path for himself in New England, he needs to get past Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenUnited Auto Workers strike against GM poised to head into eighth day Omar: Biden not the candidate to 'tackle a lot of the systematic challenges that we have' Seven takeaways from a busy Democratic presidential campaign weekend in Iowa MORE (D-Mass.) before he challenges the frontrunners. He recently criticized her for her support for impeachment and Medicare for All.

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His biggest problem is his lack of visibility nationally. Most House members are invisible outside their districts. He generated some visibility with his announcement. But even that was lost in the run up to Biden’s official announcement a few days later.

But Moulton is the only Democratic presidential candidate who is focused on national security policy. For that alone, Moulton deserves a chance since the most difficult part of the next president’s job will be to repair America’s standing in the world from the damage caused by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's top adviser on Asia to serve as deputy national security adviser United Auto Workers strike against GM poised to head into eighth day Trump doubles down on call to investigate Biden after whistleblower complaint: 'That's the real story' MORE’s reckless and disjointed foreign policy.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.

This is the 12th piece in a series of profiles by Bannon on 2020 Democratic hopefuls. Read his analysis on Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)Mayor Pete ButtigiegSen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.), former Rep. Beto O’Rourkeformer Govs. Jay Inslee and John Hickenlooper, former Vice President Joe BidenSen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former HUD Secretary Julian CastroSen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).