U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton certainly found himself in select company by landing a big fat zero in last month’s Suffolk University poll of 800 New Hampshire voters likely to vote in a general election.
That result puts Moulton, who unveiled his presidential campaign in roughly the same April 25-April 28 timespan when the poll was conducted, in the cellar with fellow “zeroes” Mike Gravel (former Alaska U.S. senator and 2008 presidential candidate); Washington governor Jay Inslee and, of course, “other” — the grab-bag answer people come up with when they are answering pollsters’ questions.
Former Vice President Joe Biden led the pack of 24 Democrats whose names were included in the survey along with South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Managing to grab even a single vote in the Suffolk poll would have placed Moulton on a popularity level with Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; former U.S. housing secretary Julián Castro and former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, not to mention relative unknowns Tim Ryan, Eric Swalwell and Wayne Messam.
It’s important to note that the Suffolk poll is an extremely early effort by a respected voter sampling institution to get voters’ impressions of the herd of Democratic candidates eager to unseat Donald Trump.
New Hampshire voters are a hard-bitten lot who are used to casting an outsized shadow across the American political landscape. But Moulton’s inability to grab even a single nod in the poll must be a subject of chagrin for the candidate.
Moulton has worked hard to project himself onto the national political stage. He crisscrossed the nation last year in support of fellow veterans seeking congressional seats and he called on Democrats to inject new blood into their leadership ranks rather than returning Nancy Pelosi to the U.S. House speakership.
Taking on Pelosi put Moulton in almost the worst possible political position he could find himself in this year. He invested a huge amount of his limited political capital on the venture. Nancy Pelosi has political capital to burn and she swatted aside Moulton’s challenge without barely lifting a finger.
Even worse, Moulton alienated a vocal group of women voters who are Democrats and criticized him in his own district for taking on a prominent woman politician. They even accused Moulton (40) of ageism for challenging Pelosi (79).
This misstep and his entry into a crowded and chaotic Democratic field seriously begs the question of whether or not Moulton is getting any sound political advice.
The only comfort he can take away from the Suffolk poll is that, predictably, the number of voters (115) undecided about the Democratic presidential field far surpassed the 86 votes Biden received.
Even as he gazes across the political terrain at the White House, Moulton can hear rumblings in his own district from fellow Democrats who would like to yank the 6th Congressional District away from him in the same way he wrested it from former congressman and fellow Democrat John Tierney in 2014.
It was Tierney this week who said he is giving some thought to a rematch with Moulton. That might sound like a fantasy until one remembers how Tierney challenged and ousted former Republican congressman Peter Torkildsen.
Not much gets mentioned about the fact that older, traditional Democrats, including ones in pivotal political states like Iowa and New Hampshire, might examine a Moulton candidacy and dislike the fact that Moulton’s political debut involved unseating a multi-term congressional Democrat like Tierney.
Maybe Moulton hopes his zero showing in the Suffolk poll will make him a stealth candidate who can wind and wiggle his way through the presidential pack until he emerges as an improbable consensus choice for taking on Trump. He can only dream.