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Poll suggests Md. GOP’s path to success in ’22 is finding another Hogan

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan greets supporters outside a polling place after voting early on Oct. 30, 2018, in Annapolis. Hogan went on to easily defeat Democratic candidate Ben Jealous. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Maryland Republicans could be competitive in the 2022 election if they can find an heir to the brand built by Gov. Larry Hogan, according to a new Goucher Poll.

Hogan, who cannot run for a third term, has spent more than a decade building a brand of Republicanism. That individual brand survived an anti-Donald Trump blue wave in 2018.

The poll released Thursday finds Maryland voters prefer a candidate similar to Hogan over a progressive or possibly even a moderate Democrat.

“Larry Hogan is a popular brand in Maryland as evidenced by our years of consistently high approval ratings for him,” said Mileah Kromer, who directs the Goucher Poll.

“From the numbers, it is clear that brand of Republicanism is a path — not a guarantee — to victory in Maryland. It’s a path for a Republican to follow if they can rebuild the Hogan coalition, reach voters across the aisle including 30% of Democratic voters, make inroads with Black voters and have strong support among independents,” she said.

The survey conducted Oct. 14-20 surveyed 631 voters about the kind of candidate they preferred and the key issues in determining how they will vote. The poll has a margin of error of 3.9%.

Four Republicans so far are seeking to succeed Hogan. Those candidates are: Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz; Del. Dan Cox, a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump who  helped organize a group that was present during the Jan. 6 rally that later turned into a storming of the U.S. Capitol; political gadfly Robin Ficker; and Joe Werner, an attorney and perennial candidate who unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for Congress and for Harford County executive.

Nine Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination including: Comptroller Peter Franchot; Tom Perez, former head of the Democratic National Committee and U.S. labor secretary; Doug Gansler, the former state attorney general who unsuccessfully ran in 2014; Rushern Baker, the former Prince George’s County executive who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018; and Wes Moore, an author who previously ran a nonprofit.

A plurality of voters, 28%, said the economy and jobs top their list of concerns. Another 14% said health care, followed by 13% who said racial and social justice issues and 125 who said taxes are the major issue.

The Goucher poll did not ask about individual head-to-head matchups in 2022. It also did not assume winners in the Democratic or Republican primaries.

Instead, the poll pits “a Republican like Larry Hogan” against candidates from the broad political categories of progressive and moderate Democrats. The poll also asks voters to choose between “a Republican like Donald Trump” and those other broad categories.

“Some people will say there is no difference between a Larry Hogan Republican and a Donald Trump Republican,” said Kromer. “Voters in Maryland don’t see it that way. Voters clearly draw a distinction.”

But one major question remains unanswered.

“Is the Larry Hogan brand transferrable?” said Kromer. “That remains to be seen.”

In two scenarios, moderate and progressive Democrats are favored over a Trump-style Republican by a 2-1 margin or better.

According to the poll, a moderate Democratic candidate would be the most competitive against a Republican like Hogan.

Forty-nine percent said they prefer a Hogan Republican.  Forty-four percent said they favored a moderate Democrat.

The margin grows for a Hogan-esque Republican facing a generic progressive Democrat. Of those surveyed, 55% preferred the Hogan-like Republican compared to 38% who chose a progressive Democrat.

Those results are strikingly similar to 2018. That year, Hogan defied national and local backlash against Trump. He became the second two-term Republican governor in Maryland by winning more than 55% of the vote. He defeated his Democratic opponent by a 12-point margin.

The current field of Democrats is setting up as it did in 2018 when Ben Jealous, a progressive Democrat, won with a plurality of votes.

Hogan easily defeated Jealous by running against the progressive’s platform of programs the Republican governor characterized as wildly expensive requiring higher taxes.

“Clearly the most competitive scenario is a contest between a Hogan Republican and a moderate Democrat,” said Kromer. “It should be a surprise to no one because if you look at our polling, a plurality of votes falls somewhere in the middle. That’s where the voters are.”



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