By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Even as Rep. Seth Moulton exits a presidential race he was never really a part of in any significant way, he’s making it clear he doesn’t quite get it.

And that could be problematic for his re-election prospects in the Sixth Congressional District.

Let’s stipulate that Moulton had every right to make this run. His admirable military service and commendable candor about the mental health issues he and many veterans face were solid credentials.

But his campaign turned out to be what campaigns often are – an expose of the candidate’s flaws.

Moulton’s ouster of longtime incumbent John Tierney in 2014 was as much a referendum on Tierney’s scandal-marred image as a celebration of the challenger, but it seemed to go straight to Moulton’s head. By contrast with another young member of the delegation, Joe Kennedy, elected two years before, Moulton eschewed the hard, unglamorous work of building insider connections in the House and strong working relationships with local officials that lead to results for the district.

Rep. Seth Moulton. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“I can’t wait to get back at it,” said Moulton of his return to the race for the Sixth District seat. But a successful defense will require better efforts to appease voters and donors still fuming over his failed coup against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and to explain what he’s actually accomplished during three terms in office, a task his own website fails to achieve. Another likely voter question: how can you be an effective representative going forward when you’ve thoroughly alienated the entire House leadership?

Says Moulton: “Though this campaign is not ending the way we hoped, I am leaving this race knowing that we raised issues that are vitally important to the American people and our future.” Fine. But now it’s all about issues vital to Salem, Newburyport and Lynn, where foreign policy is not top of mind.

And Moulton needs to recognize that his quixotic run stepped on a third rail of Massachusetts politics – voter fatigue with the relentless Potomac fever of our elected officials. Dukakis, Weld, Cellucci, Kerry, Romney, Warren, it’s a litany that leaves many wondering: what about us?

If Seth Moulton is ready to show a little humility and credibly answer that question, he may get a re-do.

If he isn’t, look out below.

Jon Keller


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