By John O. Sullivan
“I have nothing to do with Donald Trump.”
–Governor Larry Hogan
Republican Lawrence Hogan Jr. shocked many when he won the governorship of “deep-blue” Maryland in 2014, beating Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown. Now, almost 4 years later, Governor Hogan has filed for re-election. Does he stand a chance to repeat his feat?
Governor Hogan has always maintained a high popularity rating, and recent polling showed that was still true, with a popularity rating over 70%, making him one of the most popular governors in the country. however, popularity does not always equal re-electability. Thankfully, the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College recently released its always-comprehensive spring poll, and there are interesting results.
Two great indicators in this poll for Gov. Hogan’s reelection lie within his relationship to national politics. 46% of Marylanders see him as a moderate, and 47% think he has distanced himself “about the right amount” from President Trump. With 17 and 20 percent of Marylanders undecided in each question respectively. This indicates that Hogan has been moderately successful in keeping himself away from the toxic partisanship of national politics. This success will hinder Democratic success challenging him in the election, as one of their key strategies was to attempt to tie him to President Trump. Another factor in the way of this strategy: a relatively low, 38% of Marylanders said their views on President Trump would influence their vote for governor.
While Hogan has some good numbers behind him, what is the key factor that could make or break his re-election bid? Thankfully, Director of the Goucher Poll Center, Mileah Kromer, gives us the informed answer:
“Governor Hogan’s reelection chances in blue Maryland are closely tied to the public perception that he is a moderate Republican who has distanced himself from Washington politics. The specter of an unpopular president with shared party affiliation still looms as a potential political problem for Mr. Hogan as about a third of Maryland voters say their views toward the president will influence their vote for governor.”
Another pivotal factor for Governor Hogan is that most Marylanders think things are going well currently, which is always welcome for an incumbent. 60% hold a positive view of Maryland’s economy and 55% think the state is headed in the right direction.
However, it isn’t all wine and roses for Governor Hogan. Some specific polled issues suggest potential challenges ahead for him. 71% of Marylanders think that the state is still spending too little on Public Education, which will be a wedge issue for the Democrats. 52% also think the state is spending too little on Public Transportation, which will work against Gov. Hogan after he indefinitely postponed construction on the proposed Baltimore Red Line metro.
There were a number of popular issues that Gov Hogan polled well in.Term limits for state legislators polled extremely well, with just 17% of Marylanders opposing term limits (I could, and may, write a whole other article on how completely stupid this is). This will play well for the Governor, as he proposed a number of transparency measures, which include the aforementioned term limits, last month.
In addition, 82% of Marylanders said that opioid addiction was a major problem in Maryland, an area where Governor Hogan has taken a very public lead, including filming a PSA with House Of Cards actor Michael Kelly, and proposing turning a closed prison into an opioid and mental health treatment center.
Finally, we should turn our attention to the Democratic primary. In 2014, then-candidate Hogan was the beneficiary of a drawn out and bitter Democratic primary that split the Democratic party three ways. Lingering bad feelings there drove down Democratic turnout on election day, which aided Hogan’s victory. This year, there are even more candidates involved on the Democratic side, but the race has so far lacked the infighting that characterised the 2014 campaign.
Overall, the door is certainly open for Governor Hogan’s reelection, but it isn’t sealed yet. According to the Goucher poll,. 47% of Marylanders say they are leaning toward, or will definitely vote to re-elect Governor Hogan, and 43% say they are leaning toward or definitely going to vote for a different candidate. With 10% undecided, it could still go either way, and Governor Hogan will face his share of challenges in the re-elect, but things are looking good for a Republican governor in a state where Democrats have a 2-to-1 registration advantage.
Feature Image courtesy of the Governor’s Office via AP