BOW, N.H. – What the political future holds for US Representative Seth Moulton himself remains a topic of speculation. But on Saturday Moulton found himself at a small hillside gathering of New Hampshire Democrats talking about why it’s time for “a new generation of political leadership.”
“I am traveling all across this country to support the next generation of Democrats because it is not enough to just bash Donald Trump, but we need to demonstrate to this country that we when start leading again we will start winning again,” said Moulton.
Moulton, 39, brought his mother’s homemade chocolate cake to the picnic and was game on a sunny, 85-degree day in late July to try the host’s CWID – coffee with ice cream decaf – in a small paper cup.
Moulton, who represents Massachusetts’ Sixth Congressional District, was the keynote speaker at the Merrimack County Democrats’ main summer event. In the past the gathering has been held at an apple orchard with a few hundred in attendance. This year it was held in the front yard of a prominent Democratic couple with just 50 people sitting in lawn chairs, including a dozen candidates for local offices.
But should Moulton be preparing to run for president in 2020, it was exactly the type of audience he needed to impress.
“He is certainly presidential material,” said Dick Swett, a former New Hampshire member of Congress and former US ambassador to Denmark.
One of the organizers, Concord City Councilor Rob Werner, said he invited Moulton to speak because “it was my understanding he wanted to find excuses to travel to New Hampshire, and I think he is an interesting speaker.”
For now, at least, Moulton flatly states that he is not running for president. This despite the fact that it was his second trip in eight days to New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first presidential primary. Last year he spoke at one of the most prominent political events in Iowa, the state that holds the first presidential caucuses.
In an interview, Moulton dismissed his pair of Granite State visits as just circumstance. In the first trip, he made two campaign stops in Manchester with Maura Sullivan, a Democratic candidate for Congress and his former classmate at Harvard’s Kennedy School. At one of those events, inside an American Legion post, only eight people attended and the three pitchers of beer on a side table went untouched.
On Saturday, Moulton delivered a nine-minute stump speech in which he discussed his military service in Iraq and praised the activism of Parkland, Fla., students on gun violence, those leading the #MeToo movement, and teachers demanding higher wages in places like West Virginia. He avoided more controversial topics, such as a so-called Medicare-for-all health care system and abolishing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Those who asked Moulton questions from the audience noted that they had Googled him before the event. His biggest applause line followed a question about guns.
“You know I used guns in Iraq. I had to. They were important for my job. I was trained to use guns. I had two guns with me at all times. Guns saved my life,” Moulton said. “But weapons of war have no place on our streets, in our schools, and in our communities.”
Moulton then offered his only jab at a Democratic Party establishment he sometimes finds himself at odds with. While blaming the current Republican US House leaders for not allowing a vote on many gun control measures this year, Moulton said, “The dirty secret is that when Democrats were in charge in 2007 we didn’t bring ’em up either.”
That line left Bow activist Gary Woods impressed.
“I like that he is willing to say that both parties have a lot of blame for our past,” said Woods, a candidate for state representative.
But the larger point, if there was one, of the 20 minutes he held court in New Hampshire is largely unanswered. Moulton told the Globe that his trip to New Hampshire was just like his planned swing to Colorado and California in two weeks or later in August when he will campaign in Maine with congressional candidate Jared Golden. So far, he insists, he’s focused on helping other Democrats get elected.
Maybe we are supposed to see Moulton’s answer to a questioner on the future of the red hot Red Sox this season as a metaphor for his own future.
“I am optimistic about the Sox this year, but I don’t have much more to say about that.”