The general consensus for months has been that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican in a blue state, is a shoo-in to win a second term. Some polls rank him as the second most popular governor in the entire country. And, according to an April Goucher poll, Mr. Hogan is not only leading the Democrats in overall popularity, but he is also dominating them in almost every subcategory, with voters saying they have more confidence in him than other Democrats on key issues including the state budget, crime, taxes, economic development, and transportation and infrastructure.
Governor Hogan has brought some checks and balances to a state that in the past has been governed by one party rule. Most importantly, he has used the power of the pen exercising his veto authority. And his boutique initiatives — such as reducing bridge and tunnel tolls, which affect many Marylanders — have resonated well with the population.
Governor Hogan also understands basic math, and he realizes that Marylanders pull the lever roughly 2 to 1 Democrat; he has gone out of his way to appease this portion of the electorate. He has shielded himself from President Trump whenever possible. He boycotted the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, voted for his father on Election Day, pulled the National Guard off the boarder to protest the president’s immigration policies and stood largely silent while Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh filed countless frivolous lawsuits against the Trump administration.
For political reasons, the governor has embraced far left polices such as the recent “red flag” gun control bill; in addition, he supported free college tuition. It appears the governor is playing to the left-leaners to make sure he doesn’t lose moderate Democrats. In theory, he should be a lock for his second term.
But there are variables that aren’t being calculated.
First, the O’Malley card is not in play this time around. Many Democrats during the second term of the O’Malley administration didn’t feel fairly represented by their own party, and many Republicans had a vitriolic hatred for the former governor; Mr. Hogan was able to seize those votes.
Second, in a non-presidential election, the Republicans are not only un-energized, many are turned off — or flat-out angered — by the governors more left-leaning actions.
But most importantly, we should take note of what took place during the primary election.
Democrats took a stand on the direction in which they want the state to move forward. They did not vote slightly to the left of center, rather they have steered far to the left. It appears the Democratic Party is not looking for moderate leadership.
The favorite to win the Democratic Primary for Baltimore County executive was State Sen. Jim Brochin with Vicki Almond within striking distance. Jim Brochin is considered an independent by many. The senator was caught off guard as his party lost a photo-finish recount to Johnny Olszewski, a far-left Democrat. The same occurred in the gubernatorial Democratic primary, when former president and chief executive officer of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, beat Prince Georges County Executive Rushern Baker.
Governor Hogan likely will continue to appease a party that cloaks itself in identity politics hoping they will return the favor at the election box in November. This strategy is a step beyond bipartisanship, and many in the governor’s own party are having a difficult time finding a reason to vote for Mr. Hogan other than they simply don’t want Ben Jealous in the governor’s mansion.
This is a risky game plan. Mr. Hogan may have impressive approval numbers today, but whether that will translate to Democratic votes tomorrow may not be a given.
Jimmy Mathis is a republican political strategist and commentator; his email is Mathis.firstname.lastname@example.org.