Hogan’s GOP brand lost to Trump-style politics. He does not see defeat.
Cox, who wondered if there had been an insurrection on January 6, 2021, and has Public schools called “indoctrination centers” represent everything Hogan has spoken out against in his dozens of television appearances positioning himself as a Republican alternative to Trump.
Maryland Republicans and national strategists described it as a tough loss, proof that Hogan’s influence in the party may be waning. That is, unless you talk to Larry Hogan himself, who sees no loss.
“There was no repudiation,” Hogan said in an interview. “I mean, I think I’m stronger than ever,” he said, noting a recent poll that showed he’s hugely popular in the state.
Republican strategist Bill Kristol, who once encouraged the second-term governor to challenge Trump in the 2020 primary, agreed that “Hogan is popular in Maryland.”
But he added, “I’m afraid Hoganism isn’t very popular right now in the Republican Party of Maryland. And frankly, it’s not popular across the country right now.
If Hogan couldn’t convince primary voters who know and love him to embrace his vision of appealing to moderates and independents to grow the Republican Party, strategists asked, how could he sell that to voters? GOP primaries who have never met him?
Maryland House Minority Whip Haven N. Shoemaker Jr. (R-Carroll) said Hogan’s reign over Maryland Republicans appeared to end on Tuesday.
“What we saw from yesterday’s results is that there is considerable Hogan fatigue among Republican primary voters in Maryland,” Shoemaker said. “A lot of it is vitriol that stems from the lockdowns we’ve seen during the global pandemic, and a lot of it stems from the invective that the governor has directed at President Trump. You can’t win a Republican primary from the left. And I think yesterday’s results demonstrated that fact.
Primary voters ignored Hogan’s political mentee — former Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz — and instead elevated someone the governor openly called “crazy”: Cox. The state lawmaker attended the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol and once called former Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” (although he later voiced his regret for his language).
Cox tried to impeach Hogan over coronavirus restrictions and campaigned to audit the 2020 presidential election, restrict abortion rights, exclude transgender athletes from women’s sports and strengthen parental controls over sex education and the teaching of race in public schools.
Hogan argued for Schulz, a longtime friend who followed Hogan’s election playbook emphasizing crime reduction and pocketbook issues, saying Cox was certain to lose the governor’s mansion in November to Democrats in a deep blue state that only a moderate Republican could win.
Republicans in Maryland chose Cox anyway, causing Hogan to lose what was widely seen as a proxy war between his vision for the party and that of Trump. When Trump rallied Cox supporters earlier this month, his pitch was that Hogan was “a bad governor” and that “anyone who wants to, frankly, I’d be against just that alone.”
Kristol, like other Hogan admirers, said, “I don’t think last night was a disaster.” But he added: “I don’t think the party is enough where it is right now. I don’t know if this will change in the future.
Hogan said he hoped the party would adapt. He framed Cox’s victory as some sort of partisan scam by Democrats, who he said put their thumbs up to elevate a fringe candidate who has no chance of winning in November.
“The far left was spending millions of dollars promoting, you know, insurgents who believe in conspiracy theory. That’s what happened,” he said, adding that his own name was not on the ballot.
“It really didn’t have much to do with me,” Hogan said. “It’s a huge loss for Maryland and the Republican Party and a big win for, you know, the National Democrats and the Democratic Governors Association.”
The DGA spent $2 million on television and mailings in the state to promote Cox’s ties to Trump — more than either GOP candidate spent. DGA has openly conceded that he views Maryland as his best shot at toppling a governor’s mansion this year.
But Hogan’s argument doesn’t hold water with everyone.
“I don’t really buy that,” Kristol said. “The bottom line is that Trump endorsed Cox; let’s be realistic. … The ad is pretty honest, and the ad says that this guy, Cox, is a Trump supporter. If that’s what appeals to Republican primary voters in Maryland, that’s what appeals to them.
The other candidate Hogan enthusiastically endorsed, his daughter Jaymi Sterling, won her first race for state’s attorney in St. Mary’s County, which voted for Trump by a wide margin in 2020. A mix of Hogan-endorsed and Trump-endorsed candidates won in declining primary ballots across the state, including for congressional seats.
Despite winning two terms in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1, Hogan did not show a trailing streak. When reelected by 12 percentage points in 2018, the GOP lost three key county executive races and at least eight competitive General Assembly seats.
Cook’s Politics Report, which rates political races, reclassified the gubernatorial race from “lean Democrat” to “solid Democrat” after Cox’s victory, skipping the intermediate assessment of “likely Democrat.” And that’s without a definite Democratic nominee. The race on this side is still too close to call political newcomer Wes Moore, former US Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.
“It has been proven over and over again. The way Republicans can win in blue states is with moderate Republicans, not Trump-style Republicans in a state the former president lost by 33 points,” said Jessica Taylor, senior editor at Cook.
After Cox’s victory, the DGA released an ad using images of Hogan’s harsh criticism of Cox to attack the incoming GOP nominee.
“I guess they must think I’m still pretty influential,” Hogan deadpanned.
Hogan said he would not support Cox in November, although he clearly said “no” he would not campaign for the Democratic nominee instead.
“I hope he will do his adult duty and support his party’s candidate, but unfortunately we haven’t seen anything from him other than false statements and comments that he feels alone in a lifeboat,” Cox said in a statement.
Doug Mayer, who was deputy campaign manager for Hogan and senior adviser to the Schulz campaign, deflected the implications of Cox’s victory.
“It has nothing to do with Larry Hogan’s political future. At the end of the day, the Governor will be 100% right when Dan Cox loses in historic fashion. It’s as simple as that,” Mayer said. “There are a decent number of Republicans in Maryland who don’t understand that a tidal wave of liberal madness is heading their way. And instead of battening down the hatches, they’ve opened the front door.
Hogan said he was undeterred in his efforts to persuade Republicans to emulate Reagan’s party. He still has stops in Iowa on his schedule for next month, though he said he won’t make a decision about running for president until he leaves office in January.
“I’ve been saying for a long time that there’s a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party,” Hogan said. “This battle is going to continue for a few more years. … And I, for one, am not going to stop.