Moulton's bid not derailed by low numbers  

Democratic presidential candidate Seth Moulton speaks at an event in Las Vegas earlier this month. His campaign says he is staying in the race, despite disappointing fundraising in the second quarter. (AP Photo/John Locher)

SALEM — Congressman and presidential candidate Seth Moulton raised more than $1.2 million in the second quarter of the year, his campaign announced Tuesday, putting him far behind the top-tier presidential candidates. But he is not giving up.

His campaign said Moulton still "has the resources to compete on the ground" and will run "a lean — but strategic and effective — operation moving forward."

Moulton, who was somewhat late jumping into the Democratic presidental primary on April 22, raised less than 10 percent of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's $19.1 million haul in the second quarter, from April through June.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who entered the race in April shortly after Moulton did, raised $21.5 million. And South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who like Moulton is a recent veteran, raised nearly $25 million.

Still, Moulton's campaign issued a statement saying they are proud of the fundraising so far.

Seth raised over $1.245 million from over 17,000 individual donors," campaign spokesman Matt Corridoni said in the statement. "Our average donation was approximately $65, and roughly half of our donors were women. The campaign ended the quarter with approximately $725,000 cash on hand.

"Entering the race late gave us a steep hill to climb, but we’re proud of this quarter and know we have the resources to run a lean — but strategic and effective — operation moving forward."

In order to qualify for the next round of Democratic debates, coming up on July 30, Moulton needed 65,000 unique donors — a goal he did not meet this quarter. Alternatively, he could show that he has garnered 1% of the vote in three polls recognized by the Democratic National Committee. So far, he has not qualified. 

The plan for the coming months is to have Moulton on the ground in early states where his message as a veteran with leadership experience might resonate. With seven months before any votes are cast, the race is still wide open.

"We’re not just looking for a viral moment," Corridoni said. "We’re doing the work on the ground where it matters most. And we’re going to double down on that strategy in the months ahead." 

Stay or go?

Asked what the determining factor might be for Moulton to stay in the race, Corridoni said: "We'll stay in the race as long as we're seeing support on the ground in the early states, which we do. We're still seven months away from voters going to the polls."

In the meantime, Moulton is facing a primary challenge for his 6th District congressional seat. Lisa Peterson, a Salem city councilor, and Jamie Zahlaway Belsito of Topsfield have both announced they are seeking the Democratic nomination.

Corridoni said Moulton continues to have strong support in the district.

"Seth's record of accomplishments in the district speak for themselves," Corridoni said. "Both Seth and his team continue to work around the clock to successfully deliver results while he's running for president. His support in the district reflects that and remains strong."

Moulton has said he plans to run for re-election if he is unable to capture the Democratic nomination for president.

Dan Mulcare, chairman of the political science department at Salem State University, said "money matters" in this presidential race, especially when it become a qualifying measure for the debates. He said the low fundraising number and the low number of individual donors "are bad signs for Moulton to get on the debate stage."

And that is "the minimum he needs to make any sort of a splash," Mulcare said.

The other thing working against Moulton, and other lower tier candidates, is the news cycle. Last weekend, Democratic candidates were heading to see the condition of migrants being held in detention centers on the southern border, and this past weekend the cycle was dominated by the controversy over President Donald Trump's tweets disparaging four women of color in Congress. 

The issues Moulton has been advocating "are not really resonating with voters in the Democratic primary," Mulcare said. This may be the point when lower tier candidates run out of money and are not able to make payroll.

"A lot of candidates like Moulton did not do well in the cycle," said longtime Democratic political consultant Michael Goldman of Marblehead. 

While some of those candidates may be considering their options, Goldman said it appears the disappointing fundraising is not going to force Moulton out. The strategy appears to be to hang on until February, he said.

Moulton is not alone, however, in trying to break through.

"There are 20 people, 15 of them are where Moulton is," Goldman said of the crowded field. 

What would be a deciding factor in whether a candidate goes or stays?

"It's a personal, private decision he makes with his family and friends and people he cares about," Goldman said. "Let's put it this way: you have to have an explanation as to why you are staying in."

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews. 

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