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 Wilbur MoultonThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg to debate; Warren on separate night 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 PelosiCalifornia Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry California Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments 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 SandersTrump hits polling on Fox News: 'Something weird going on at Fox' Trump hits polling on Fox News: 'Something weird going on at Fox' 2020 Democrats look to cut into Biden's lead with black voters MORE (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump hits polling on Fox News: 'Something weird going on at Fox' Trump hits polling on Fox News: 'Something weird going on at Fox' 2020 Democrats look to cut into Biden's lead with black voters 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) CrowleyK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Pelosi, Clinton among attendees at memorial reception for Ellen Tauscher Dems walk Trump trade tightrope MORE in New York City and Mike Capuano in Boston by Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyCruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control access face major obstacles Ocasio-Cortez shares verse by the 'Congressional Destiny's Child' in promotion of new birth control legislation Ocasio-Cortez shares verse by the 'Congressional Destiny's Child' in promotion of new birth control legislation 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 WarrenTrump hits polling on Fox News: 'Something weird going on at Fox' Trump hits polling on Fox News: 'Something weird going on at Fox' 2020 Democrats look to cut into Biden's lead with black voters 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 says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump tweets ICE will begin removing 'millions' of undocumented migrants 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.).