The clock is ticking on Seth Moulton.
I’d say it’s Labor Day. Maybe even as long as Thanksgiving. But the clock will certainly run out before votes start in New Hampshire and Iowa as the snow falls.
Regardless, Moulton has a choice to make very soon – end a clearly-failing pursuit of the presidency in 2020 or announce he won’t be a candidate for reelection to Congress even if he loses in the presidential primaries.
The smartest move would be to quit the presidential campaign before voters get back from the Cape and Seacoast and get back to work here in the 6th Congressional District.
Right now, there’s a serious risk a well-known Democrat will get in to the race and several of them ought to be thinking seriously about it.
Right now, there’s a chance one of the already-declared Democrats will catch fire and beat him in the same manner he did in his upset against Congressman John Tierney in 2014.
And right now, there’s a growing risk a Republican cut from the mold of Governor Charlie Baker will get in the race and flip this solidly blue seat to purple or red.
I say this as a fan of Congressman Moulton.
I voted for him in 2014. I deeply respect his service to our country and his leadership while in office on several important issues, most notably gun violence prevention. I’ve had the honor in my day job of seeing Moulton up close. He is the real deal and someone who could be considered a legitimate candidate for President – someday.
Unfortunately for Moulton, it just isn’t happening this season. He’s shedding staff, offering weak spin about the lack of importance of debates, and hovering at zero in polls. The recent caricature in The Onion depicting Moulton being offered sudden greatness from a fictional Salem witch should have been the last straw for him.
There are a million reasons campaigns fail. Many of them apply to Moulton in this race.
Defeat isn’t an orphan. It’s parented by countless small and large decisions by candidates and staffers.
We’re now through two debates with Moulton nowhere to be seen or heard outside of Twitter, a few cable TV interviews and one presumably small ad buy in primary states.
For Moulton, the primary failures start with his failed coup attempt against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last year and getting in the presidential race very late for an unknown upstart who wants to be taken seriously. He was under the mistaken belief that there was a window for a young combat veteran who served in Iraq when Mayor Pete Buttigieg beat him to the punch as a younger combat veteran who served in Afghanistan.
I’m among those who thinks the Pelosi challenge didn’t yet hurt Moulton as much as it looked like – limited mostly to small groups who probably didn’t like him anyway.
But now we have a Congressman who has shown us repeatedly he’d rather not be serving as our Congressman who, even if he wins reelection, faces life as a back-bencher among House members with very long memories.
There’s a reason a few longshot candidates are already in the race. And there’s a reason credible Democrats like Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and Marblehead state Rep. Lori Ehrlich aren’t completely closing the door even if Moulton is running for reelection.
Can Moulton make a comeback in his own district? Of course. But he needs to show the people here he’s committed to this race and this district. The best way to do that is to come home and get back to work. Or get out of the way and make room for a candidate invested in this district.
David Guarino of Salem is a partner at Melwood Global, a strategic communications firm, an adviser to political candidates, government leaders and campaigns and was a political reporter who covered two presidential campaigns for The Boston Herald.