Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, in a decision he described as the toughest of his political career, said Sunday that he will not run for president in 2024 because his candidacy could inadvertently help former President Donald Trump win the Republican nomination and prolong the party’s shift toward “angry, performative politics.”
Hogan entertained a bid for the Republican nomination as a moderate candidate, traveling the country, raising money and starting to build a campaign organization last year as his two terms as governor neared an end.
But the business owner and real estate developer wrote in an op-ed published Sunday that he will not run and in a new television interview, he said polling showed him far behind the GOP primary’s front-runners.
”After eight years of pouring my heart and soul into serving the people of Maryland, I have no desire to put my family through another grueling campaign just for the experience,” Hogan wrote in The New York Times.
Hogan, one of Trump’s most prominent Republican critics during the former president’s term, said for months that one of his goals in running in 2024 would be to stop Trump from winning the nomination for a third time. Not getting into a crowded primary, like the one Trump won in 2016, is a way to do that, Hogan indicated Sunday morning in a statement.
“To once again be a successful governing party, we must move on from Donald Trump,” Hogan said. “There are several competent Republican leaders who have the potential to step up and lead. But the stakes are too high for me to risk being part of another multicar pileup that could potentially help Mr. Trump recapture the nomination.”
Trump announced his latest campaign in November. Hogan, during frequent political appearances and interviews last year, said he believed there was a “lane” for anti-Trump, moderate Republicans, such as himself, who primary voters would pick over the former president.
But in the interview CBS News aired Sunday on “Face the Nation,” Hogan said a larger number of those kinds of candidates in the race may only make it easier for primary voters to divide their votes — leaving Trump at the top.
“I didn’t want to have a pile of a bunch of people fighting,” Hogan told CBS. “Right now, you have Trump and [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis at the top of the field — soaking up all the oxygen, getting all the attention — and then a whole lot of the rest of us in single digits. And the more of them you have, the less chance you have for somebody rising up.”
Hogan did not say which poll or polls he was talking about. A Quinnipiac University national poll of Republican voters Feb. 9-14 found 42% would vote for Trump at that time and 36% would pick DeSantis. Five percent supported former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, with former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State and CIA Director Mike Pompeo each receiving the support of 4%. No other candidate topped 2%. Trump and Haley are among the few candidates formally in the race.
Political analysts have also said Hogan would have faced challenges in appealing to primary voters, who tend to be more conservative than the general electorate. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1, he maintained high approval ratings in Maryland, often by shying from making much of his positions on conservative social issues like abortion and gun control.
But while popular and successful in two general elections, when it came to the 2024 GOP primaries — even in his home state — he faced the potential of performing poorly. A June poll from Baltimore Sun Media and the University of Baltimore showed Trump had more than twice the support among Maryland Republicans in a potential matchup. And it was the Trump-backed Dan Cox, rather than the Hogan-endorsed Kelly Schulz, who won last year’s primary for governor.
“There are few things certain in politics, but one was that Larry Hogan would not be the Republican nominee for president,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
Sabato said Hogan faced “the same dilemma as the one faced by Republicans for a generation. The Republicans are more interested in conservative ideology — some would say right-wing ideology — than they are about picking a winner.”
Maryland Republican Chairwoman Nicole Beus Harris said in a statement that she was surprised by Hogan’s decision, while agreeing “family does come first.” She said state party officials and Hogan agree the party “stands for limited government, backing those in law enforcement and fiscal responsibility.”
Hogan’s spokesman said Sunday that he would not be available for an interview.
In the CBS segment recorded Friday, Hogan said he believes his party can get back to the conservative elements it represented before Trump, though he said that process is still “challenging.”
He also indicated he could support Pence as the nominee, but didn’t commit to DeSantis, who represents more of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” rebrand of Republican politics.
“He’s going right after the Trump base and he wants to be, I think, the younger version of Donald Trump,” Hogan said. “He’s trying to fire up the base, which is OK. And it may be a good strategy to win a primary. But my point was, you have to actually focus on winning swing voters, as well, or we’ll have Joe Biden as president and that’s not what we need.”
Hogan, who left office in January, spent much of his last year as governor traveling to early Republican primary states like New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada — making some of the same stops he made in 2019 when he considered seeking the 2020 nomination. Hogan eventually decided against what would have been a rare challenge to an incumbent president of his party.
Before and after that decision, Hogan spoke out frequently against Trump and his governing style, saying he believed the president tried to obstruct justice during the investigations of him and that he should be held accountable for his election-denying claims that led to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Hogan said publicly in 2016 and 2020 that he didn’t vote for Trump, declined to attend the Republican national conventions in those years and criticized the GOP establishment for supporting Trump.
As his second term wound down in November, he ran some online ads and ramped up his fundraising efforts for An America United, a nonprofit group he started in 2019 to spread his message nationally, and a newer federal political action committee, Better Path Forward PAC. A pair of fundraisers and events with more than 1,300 attendees at Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover raised a combined $1.2 million for those organizations, the groups announced at the time.
Still, Hogan didn’t demonstrate the ability to raise the amount of cash required to run a national presidential campaign. The Better Path Forward PAC had about $366,000 in the bank as of Dec. 31, according to its most recent available fundraising report. An America United, organized under a nonprofit category that many potential presidential candidates are using, is not required to regularly disclose fundraising or spending.
Maryland Policy & Politics
By comparison, Haley’s political action committee had $2 million at the end of 2022 after raising and spending more than $15 million before she even declared as a candidate last month, according to Federal Election Commission reports. A Haley nonprofit similar to Hogan’s raised $8.6 million in 2021 and had $2.8 million in assets at the end of the year, according to a filing published by OpenSecrets.
If he had entered the race, Hogan would have been the second consecutive Maryland governor to run for president. Democrat Martin O’Malley ran as one of the few opponents to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016. He dropped out after winning less than 1% of the vote in the Iowa caucuses. New Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat, is widely seen as a potential future presidential candidate.
Hogan could decide to run for U.S. Senate in 2024, Sabato said, particularly if Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, 79, decides not to seek reelection. Cardin is expected to announce his plans within the next few months; he was not available Sunday for comment.
Despite aggressive cajoling from national Republican figures seeking to take control of the U.S. Senate, Hogan decided not to run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen in 2022.
“It has to be very enticing for [Hogan] if it’s an open seat,” Sabato said. “I don’t know that he wants to run against an incumbent Democrat.”
However, Hogan himself appeared Sunday to rule out another campaign, writing in his op-ed: “I’m not a career politician, and that has never been my aspiration. I’ve spent nearly my entire career founding and running businesses, and that’s what I’m going to go back to doing.”
Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Lilly Price contributed to this article.