Election 2020

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Mulls a Primary Challenge Against President Trump

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Mulls a Primary Challenge Against President Trump
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan speaks during the National Governor Association 2019 winter meeting in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

On Tuesday, Gov. Larry Hogan (R-Md.) announced he is considering a 2020 campaign for president, challenging President Donald Trump in the Republican primary. Hogan is the second to consider such a campaign, following former Libertarian vice presidential nominee Gov. William Weld (R-Mass.). He would arguably mount a stronger challenge to Trump than Weld.

Hogan spoke at the Politics & Eggs breakfast, an event hosted by the New England Council and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics — a must-do event for any presidential candidate.

The Maryland governor has planned trips to 16 different states in the next few months as he considers a run for president, The Washington Post reported. “I’m not just wandering around the states, hitchhiking,” Hogan quipped.

The Maryland governor slammed his fellow Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures for refusing to speak out after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. Hogan described the Mueller report as “very disturbing” and “unsavory.”

Republicans refuse to attack Trump on it “because they’re afraid,” Hogan told reporters. “There are no profiles in courage here. They’re afraid of being primaried. They’re afraid of being tweeted about.”

After the governor decided to attack Trump, he said he’s been approached “by a lot of people and a growing number of people” since his second inauguration in January. Last year, he became the second Republican governor to win re-election in deep blue Maryland. He won by nearly 12 points, and he is one of the most popular governors in America.

Bill Kristol, former founder and editor-at-large of the defunct Weekly Standard and a leader of the #NeverTrump Republican movement, encouraged Hogan to run.

“Larry Hogan is obviously at the top of the list of credible challengers,” Kristol told The Washington Post. If the governor chose to challenge Trump, “it would be a patriotic thing to do,” he said.

Kristol also suggested that the Mueller report might convince some Republican donors to turn on the president. “The donors who before would have said, ‘I don’t want to get involved’ … I think now some of them say, ‘I’m open to helping,'” he said.

While the governor has started touring the country, he remained undecided on a presidential run. He has not hired staff or formed an exploratory committee, but he visited Iowa in March with the National Governors Association. His spokesman Michael Ricci said the governor has not yet planned any trips to South Carolina or other early primary states.

According to The Washington Post, Hogan has remained circumspect about challenging Trump until Tuesday, saying “it makes no sense” to primary the sitting president unless he is considerably weakened.

According to a recent New Hampshire poll, more than 75 percent of Republican voters said they would support Trump in a contested primary. Hogan attracted a mere 1 percent. Weld, who has formally announced his candidacy, garnered 5 percent. A full 10 percent chose former Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio), who has not yet announced a 2020 bid.

Hogan has scheduled a Utah trip for June, after being invited by former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

Speaking in New Hampshire, Hogan said he was not “going to launch a suicide mission,” and would not consider entering the race until the fall. “A shorter field will be better for someone who doesn’t have a lot of money. I don’t feel any rush to get in.”

Hogan may poll behind Weld for now, but Republicans are more likely to support the current governor over a former governor who “vouched” for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Even so, he is unlikely to be a serious challenger to a sitting president. Only a former Republican nominee like Romney could have a realistic chance, but Romney’s public courting of Trump after the 2016 election would significantly hobble even his primary challenge to Trump.

Barring a massive scandal or an act of God, Trump will almost certainly be the Republican nominee for 2020. It would be wiser for Republicans to work with him and attempt to change his mind than to mount a challenge against him.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.