The rumors are running rampant. Is Larry Hogan, Maryland’s first two-term Republican governor since the 1950s, considering mounting a primary to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020?

On Friday, Jerry Taylor, the founder of a Washington think tank called the Niskanen Center, told The Baltimore Sun he’s been trying to convince Hogan to run for weeks, and Hogan hasn’t turned him down.


Washington think tank president wooing Maryland Gov. Hogan to run against Trump for president

The president of a Washington think tank says he’s been pushing Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan for weeks to explore a Republican primary challenge to President Donald Trump in 2020. Niskanen Center founder Jerry Taylor says he’s been encouraging Hogan to run - and the governor hasn't said, "No."

There are other signs that Hogan isn’t just listening to Taylor, but is actually gearing up to make a run.

During his first term, Hogan did well to stay out of the national political scene, focusing on the job he was elected to do — run the State of Maryland. He has taken a greater interest in national politics as of late.

Hogan invited former Florida governor and Republican presidential primary candidate Jeb Bush to introduce him at his inauguration on Wednesday. Bush called Hogan a model for the rest of the country.

“I think Governor Larry Hogan is the best example in public life today to less coarsen our culture,” Bush said.

During his own inauguration speech, Hogan focused on dysfunction in Washington, where the partial federal shutdown has reached a record 29 days.

Pundits seemed to have latched onto a quote from his speech Wednesday, when he mentioned that his father, then a congressman, was the first Republican to call for Richard Nixon’s impeachment, a not-so-subtle nod toward President Trump’s legal troubles that seem to be mounting daily.

“Despite tremendous political pressure, he put aside partisanship and answered the demands of his conscience to do what he thought was the right thing for the nation that he loved,” Hogan said.

Also on Friday, Politico reported that Hogan is planning a trip to Iowa, the first caucus state, in March in his role as the vice chair of the National Governors Association, although it notes that those involved say the location of the trip is coincidental.

For voters who would like to see a return to more sensible politics at the national level, when hyper-partisanship and childish behavior weren’t the norm, then there are few options out there better than Hogan. He’d certainly have my vote.

But could he win the Republican nomination? Both the past and the present say that is unlikely.

Say what you will about Trump as president, but he understands how to campaign and rally support. And he’s been campaigning for re-election from the minute he was elected the first time. He’s also incredibly well-funded, with a war chest of $100 million or more, and Trump has the support of the Republican National Committee.

And while overall Trump’s popularity isn’t great – his latest approval rating is about 39 percent — he remains in good standing among conservative Republican voters. (Meanwhile, even with Hogan’s strong popularity in Maryland, you don’t have to look further than Carroll County political Facebook pages to know that among Trump fans, the right-of-center governor is regarded as a “lib” or a “commie.”)

Whether it’s Hogan, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich or another so-called “Never Trump” candidate, they would face an uphill battle against Trump. And history shows that primary challenges to incumbent presidents usually don’t end well.

Interesting to note, however, is that the last three incumbent presidents who faced a primary challenge — George H.W. Bush from Pat Buchanan in 1992, Jimmy Carter from Ted Kennedy in 1980, and Gerald Ford from Ronald Reagan in 1976 — all went on to lose re-election bids in November.


Perhaps that shouldn’t be too surprising. Why run a primary against a sitting president unless you — and the voters and perhaps the party — think the president is able to be beat? So if history is any indication, should Trump face a primary challenge in 2020, it may be a good sign for Democrats looking to take back the White House.

As for Hogan, while his moderate voice of reason may be exactly what the nation needs right now, it’s more likely that our country’s choices in 2020 will be the bombastic incumbent Republican Trump (assuming those legal troubles don’t get him first) and a darn near socialist Democrat, neither of whom will appeal to the great number of pragmatists in the middle.

While he likely couldn’t change parties in the middle of his term as governor, Hogan or a similar moderate politician might be better off challenging as an independent third-party candidate that many in our country have been clamoring for. A Pew research poll from 2017 suggested 61 percent of Americans would like a third choice. That may be a better path for Kasich in 2020.

For Hogan, the hope here is that once he finishes out his second term, he considers following in his father’s footsteps for a congressional run. After all, the White House isn’t the only place in D.C. that could use a bit more of his common-sense approach.