Gov. Larry Hogan, nearing the end of his administration and actively flirting with a presidential bid in 2024, could face a significant challenge winning Republican voters’ support over former President Donald Trump in the state where Hogan has been a popular, twice-elected governor, a new poll shows.
In a potential primary matchup between Trump, Hogan and four other possible candidates, Trump has twice the support of Hogan among likely Republican voters in Maryland, according to the poll from Baltimore Sun Media and the University of Baltimore.
Trump was the first choice of 48% of Maryland Republican voters, compared with 25% for Hogan if the presidential primary was held now, the poll of 428 voters found. The theoretical six-way race showed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 12%, former Vice President Mike Pence at 6%, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley at 5%, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz at 1% and undecided or other at a combined 4%.
Conducted May 27 through June 2, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.
“[Hogan] may be facing a big challenge in appealing to conservative voters, because perhaps he’s not even appealing to conservative voters in his own state when facing President Trump,” said Roger Hartley, dean of University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs.
“It doesn’t mean he shouldn’t run necessarily,” Hartley said. “It means he has a lot of work to do to show his conservative bona fides and overcome the power of the Republican incumbent because, essentially, the former president is the incumbent among the Republican Party.”
Hogan hasn’t declared a 2024 candidacy. But he’s said there will be a “lane” for anti-Trump Republicans in two years and that he might be the one to fill it.
Hogan has condemned Trump repeatedly, including during the former president’s four years in office, made it clear he wasn’t voting for him for president — and even ducked out on the Republican National Convention. His criticisms have ramped up in recent months, as his administration winds down and Trump reportedly prepares to launch his next presidential campaign.
“We don’t need Donald Trump and we don’t need somebody that’s a cheap impersonation of Donald Trump,” Hogan told CBS News last month in a plea to the party to resist nominating Trump.
In Hogan’s second, four-year term, he’s taken several steps to broaden his reach nationally, including prominent roles in the Republican Governors Association and the bipartisan organization No Labels. He runs his own nonprofit political advocacy group, An America United, and has campaigned for other prominent Republicans who have sometimes stood up to Trump, such as U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia.
“What kind of impact would he have on the race? It probably depends on how many people try to occupy the lane he would be in,” said Todd Eberly, professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. “Hogan would present himself as, ‘I am the George Bush/Ronald Reagan brand of Republican and I’m trying to take the party back to that.’”
Kyle Kondik, a political scientist at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said that with the hold Trump has over the party, the most “plausible” way Hogan or a candidate like him could succeed would be if there are multiple “Trumpy” candidates in the running. Think DeSantis, or even Donald Trump Jr., if his father decides against running, Kondik said.
“Hogan would like for there to be a big contingent in the Republican Party that is essentially ready to move on from the Trump era and almost disavow the Trump era in some ways,” Kondik said. “And I don’t think the party is at that point.”
Maryland for Hogan?
If Hogan were to run, he would have to perform well in his own state “at the bare minimum,” Kondik said.
But considering how well Trump continues to poll nationally among Republicans, it’s no surprise he starts with a commanding lead even in Maryland, he said.
Trump won Maryland’s 2016 Republican primary with 54% of the vote next to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 23% and Cruz’s 19%. He faced no major opposition for renomination in 2020, winning 87% of Maryland’s primary vote against 13% for former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.
With Trump’s name in the offing again for 2024, it’s not necessarily a “bad result” right now for Hogan to start off with a quarter of Maryland Republicans’ support, Eberly said.
“We know in Maryland that Hogan has a high approval rating among Republicans. Trump has a high approval rating among Republicans,” he said. “There’s no reason not to assume that a decent chunk of those Republicans who picked Trump would have Hogan as their second choice.”
One question among Maryland political observers is whether a Hogan candidacy would fare better or worse than former Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s presidential bid in 2016, when he never gained any kind of national momentum against former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. O’Malley dropped out in February of that year after finishing with less than 1% of the vote in the Iowa caucuses.
“I think it’s safe to say that Hogan has a higher national profile than O’Malley ever had,” said Eberly, noting Hogan received much more attention when he became only the second Republican ever to win two consecutive terms as Maryland governor. He can’t run again for the office due to term limits.
Some Maryland voters may not even know yet that Hogan is thinking of jumping in the presidential race.
Kevin Mackey, a registered Republican from Annapolis, responded to the Sun/UB poll that he’d support Hogan in 2024. He said in an interview that he had not yet heard about the governor’s aspirations.
Maryland Policy & Politics
“He seems to have integrity,” Mackey, 54, said. “He’s honest, which is, I guess, very rare in politics nowadays.”
An early sign of whether Hogan’s popularity can endure beyond his tenure will be in Maryland’s statewide July 19 primary, in which his former commerce secretary, Kelly Schulz, is going up against state Del. Dan Cox, who Trump endorsed.
Schulz maintains a lead, 27% to 21%, although a significant 42% of Republican voters were undecided, according to the Sun/UB poll.
And 43% of Schulz voters said, despite their support of her as the Hogan-endorsed candidate for governor, that they’d pick Trump to be the nominee compared to the 27% who picked Hogan, the poll found. Meanwhile, 64% of Cox’s supporters picked the former president and only 14% picked Hogan.
The poll did not ask specifically about whether Maryland voters have a favorable or unfavorable view of Hogan, but other independent polling has shown he’s maintained a broad range of support in the state. A Goucher College poll in March showed 65% of Marylanders surveyed — 71% of Republicans and 61% of Democrats — approved of his work as governor.
However, the Sun/UB poll found that only 30% of likely Republican voters thought “things in Maryland are generally headed in the right direction,” with 56% saying the state is on the “wrong track.” Of those who had a favorable view of the state’s direction, 48% said they would pick Hogan for president. Among those who said it was headed in the “wrong direction,” 57% said they would pick Trump.