Capital Source

Congressman recalls pollster told him to quit race

Representative Seth Moulton is seen in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Representative Seth Moulton is seen in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington.Drew Angerer for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

It’s a sturdy trope in the commencement address canon: The speaker’s tale of a hard-luck moment converted into achievement.

And US Representative Seth Moulton, the Salem Democrat, added to the tradition last week during his speech to the class of 2015 at North Shore Community College, recalling the gloomy dog days of his ultimately successful congressional bid last year.

“After about eight months of working hard every single day, building a team, collecting donations, shaking hands at local diners and train stations, holding countless community meetings — and still six months out from the election — we commissioned a poll,” Moulton recalled, according to text of the speech circulated by his office. “The poll showed us that all those critics were probably right. I was down 54 points. Even my own pollster told me I should quit because it was statistically impossible to win.”


Indeed, nationally renowned pollster Mark Mellman did deliver the negative forecast for Moulton, who came back to stun nine-term incumbent John Tierney in the primary and then club former state Senate minority leader Richard Tisei in the general.

“There is no credible path to victory,” Mellman said on the March conference call, according to Moulton strategist Scott Ferson.

Mellman took issue with the “statistically impossible” wording that Moulton attributed to him, but acknowledged, “I did say that, given where we were in terms of money, and where Tierney was in terms of numbers, that it was very unlikely that we were going to win.”

Mellman came much closer in the general, producing a poll that showed Moulton up 15 points over Tisei. He ultimately won by nearly 14.

So, those in the back of the class, take heart. If a guy with multiple Harvard degrees and a chest full of combat medals can beat adversity, maybe you can, too.

Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at jim.osullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.