Rep. Seth Moulton is latest Democrat to enter 2020 field

The decorated Marine veteran hopes to stand out by focusing on national security and foreign policy.
Seth Moulton,Mike Thompson,Salud Carbajal
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., with Rep. Mike Thompson, left, and Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif., all military veterans, speaks during a news conference about President Donald Trump's threatened strikes in Syria, where they called his social media rhetoric reckless and provocative, on Capitol Hill on April 13, 2018.Jacquelyn Martin / AP file

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By Alex Seitz-Wald

WASHINGTON — Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., became the latest Democrat to enter the 2020 presidential race Monday, launching a presidential campaign focused on national security.

"I'm running because I'm a patriot. Because I believe in this country. And because I've never wanted to sit on the sidelines when it comes to serving it," Moulton said on ABC News' "Good Morning America." "I'm going talk about patriotism, about security, about service. These are issues Democrats too long have ceded to Republicans."

A 40-year-old Marine combat veteran who earned a Bronze Star in Iraq, Moulton's stature has been rising since he won a seat in Congress in 2014 by defeating a long-time Democratic incumbent in a primary.

“Decades of division and corruption have broken our democracy and robbed Americans of their voice,” Moulton said in his announcement video. "It's all led to an administration that's turned away from our values and is shredding our moral authority.”

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Moulton highlighted gun control, climate change and national security as a trio of issues he wants to address.

"I'm running because we have to beat Donald Trump, and I want us to beat Donald Trump because I love this country," he said. "We've never been a country that gets everything right. But we're a country that, at our best, thinks that we might. I'd be honored if you joined me in this mission."

Moulton may be best known, however, for his opposition to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. His call for new leadership in internal House elections early this year cost him some support back home in his congressional district north of Boston, which includes Salem and the famous fishing town of Gloucester. He later came around to support Pelosi.

Moulton has been traveling to early primary and caucus states as he prepared for a presidential run. This week, he'll visit all four of them again and participate in a service project in each, something he has long made a part of his campaigns.

Moulton is the 19th candidate to enter the very crowded Democratic field. He's hardly a household name and may struggle to stand out from the eight other male candidates.

But his advisers think the primary contest is still wide open and believe voters want a fresh, younger voice who is willing to break with their own party if need be. And his team argues he can carve a place for himself in the field by focusing on national security, which none of the other candidates have prioritized thus far.

He’s used his position in the House to recruit and support veteran candidacies with his PAC, which contributed $4.3 million in last year’s midterms.

Unlike most other young veterans in politics, Moulton joined the military before the September 11 terror attacks and led one of the first platoons to enter Baghdad during the initial invasion.

The other veterans in the 2020 field are Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.

Moulton holds three degrees from Harvard — including an MBA and masters of public policy — and attended the elite Phillips Academy prep school in Andover, Mass.

Ideologically, Moulton is progressive on many issues, coming out for the Green New Deal and abolishing the Electoral College and Senate filibuster before some other candidates. But he’s temperamentally considered more moderate.

Allan Smith contributed.