Larry Hogan, Maryland governor, avoids Democrats’ Trump trap

August 12, 2018

Maryland Democrats are hoping voters are so dismayed by what is happening across the border in the District of Columbia that they will take it out on Gov. Larry Hogan in this years elections.

Mr. Hogan is among the most popular governors in the country despite being a Republican in deep-blue Maryland, and Democrats are desperate to try to ruin the relationship. One of their chief weapons is President Trump.

In one line of attack, Democrats are demanding that Mr. Hogan take a stand on Mr. Trumps nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court and say the fate of abortion rights hangs on the next justice.

Democrats also have accused Mr. Hogan of joining Mr. Trump to undermine the legitimacy of the special counsels investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Hogan said those issues arent relevant to his job, and voters so far seem to be OK with that.

Sticking Trump to Hogan has really just not worked, said Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Marys College of Maryland.

The governors approval rating is approaching 70 percent in some polls, and even polling commissioned by Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous shows Mr. Hogan ahead 49 percent to 40 percent.

That is all the more stunning in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 margin.

Analysts say Mr. Hogan has managed to escape the Trump trap. Many voters dissatisfied with Washington like how things are going in Maryland.

If youre a standard Democrat and you watch Larry Hogan, your blood pressures going to remain normal, said Richard Vatz, a rhetoric and communication professor at Towson University in Baltimore County.

Given that, Democrats may feel they have little choice but to go with an approach of guilt by association.

In an interview with The Real News Network last month, Mr. Jealous name-checked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Attorney General Jeff Sessions as reasons to vote against Mr. Hogan.

Mr. Jealous said Mr. Hogan, more than any other Republican, could have blocked the appointment last year of the scandal-plagued Mr. Pruitt, who ultimately resigned last month.

But he stood silent, Mr. Jealous said. All he had to do was say, Hey, guys, Im governor of Maryland, Im [one of] the most popular governors in the country. This dudes from Oklahoma, and hes already promised to destroy the Chesapeake Bay restoration plan.

Mr. Jealous said his path to victory in the fall is turning out a massive number of Democratic voters who stayed home in 2014 and campaigning aggressively on left-wing policy positions such as Medicare for all, free college tuition and marijuana legalization.

Still, its disdain for Mr. Trump that Jealous campaign adviser Kevin Harris calls the No. 1 issue driving many voters to the polls.

It matters to them where their governor stands, and if Larry Hogan isnt willing to take strong positions or adequately stand up for their values, then theyll remember that when they vote, Mr. Harris said.

Mr. Vatz called those persistent attempts to tie Mr. Hogan to the president sad and desperate.

I think its an implicit admission that there are no seminal issues on which the Maryland electorate should be moved to vote for Ben Jealous, he said.

The Hogan campaign says the governor is comfortable focusing on state issues and labels Mr. Jealous the candidate for out-of-state money, out-of-state endorsements and out-of-mainstream ideas.

Gov. Hogan is focused on his job governing the state of Maryland, where hes providing bipartisan leadership and getting good things accomplished on education, public safety, transportation, the environment, and health care for the people of our state, said Hogan campaign spokesman Scott Sloofman.

The Jealous campaign says it plans to appeal to voters on issues such as education, health care and the economy and contends that the majority of voters say they dont feel better off today in those areas than they did when Mr. Hogan took office.

The poll that showed Mr. Hogan leading Mr. Jealous by 9 percentage points in a trial heat also narrowed to a 2-percentage-point edge for the incumbent after respondents were read more specific descriptions of the candidates and their platforms.

Marylands schools have lost ground in national rankings, health care premiums have doubled every year and the economy has had flat wages and sluggish growth compared to our neighbors, Mr. Harris said. Given these facts, it will be hard for Hogan to convince a wave of Democrats to re-elect him, even if they think hes a nice guy.

The Hogan campaign, though, says it is telling that the Jealous campaigns own numbers show the challenger lagging in a heavily Democratic state.

Any way you slice the numbers, it is clear that Democrats and independents are fleeing Jealous because of his reckless and irresponsible plans to hike taxes on every single man, woman and child in Maryland, Mr. Sloofman said.

Mr. Hogan who didnt attend the 2016 Republican National Convention that nominated Mr. Trump said he has shown that he will buck the administration when he feels its necessary.

He was one of the first Republican governors to pull National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border in the wake of the recent child separation crisis stemming from the Trump administrations zero tolerance immigration policy.

Asked about the pressure campaign to weigh in on Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, Mr. Trumps Supreme Court pick, he said in a New York Times interview that governors have absolutely nothing to do with the Supreme Court.

They elected me to do a particular job: to turn around the state of Maryland, Mr. Hogan said. They dont want the governor spending his entire day fooling with Washington.

Update hourly