By Barry Rascovar
Hogan has a problem
His name is Donald Trump.
Everywhere that Hogan goes,
The Donald trails behind him.
Poor Gov. Larry Hogan, Jr. He’s tried like the dickens to separate himself from controversial Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.
He’s said how disgusted he is with national politics – an indirect slam at Trump.
He’s noted he won’t be going to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next month, anyway.
He has said he’s no fan of Trump and that the combustible New York developer ought not be the Republican nominee.
He endorsed and campaigned for a Trump rival, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
He says he’s not part of the presidential discussion and doesn’t want to talk about Trump any more.
When pressed further by reporters, Hogan said he was “speechless.”
But, the questioner continued, would he campaign for Republican Trump in Maryland? That, Hogan said was “a stupid” question.
Hogan’s ‘not involved’
In exasperation, Hogan nearly mimicked a statement to reporters made by the late Gov. Marvin Mandel in denying any role in an enrichment scheme by his friends. Hogan’s version: He’s not involved and doesn’t plan to be involved in anything having to do with any aspect of Trumpian presidential politics.
None of these quasi-, semi- or circuitous denials seemed to work. Hogan’s Trump baggage keeps weighing him down.
Reporters still are badgering him. Does he support the new leader of his party? Does he agree with the almost daily conspiracy allegations and undocumented bombshells coming from Trump’s tweets?
He’s tried dodging reporters, cutting off his responses, walking away from the podium or rushing into his waiting vehicle.
He even made the claim, “I have nothing to do with Donald Trump” – as though the man about to become titular head of the GOP is an alien to Maryland’s Republican governor.
Finally, Hogan tried a more direct response: He’s not going to vote for Trump in the November election.
Clinton, Johnson or a write-in?
Does that mean he intends to vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton or Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor? Or will it be a write-in presidential name?
Hogan says he’ll make up his mind when he casts his ballot.
Maryland Democrats are gleeful watching the Republican governor twist like a pretzel attempting to half-divorce himself from Trump.
Both Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and U.S. Rep. John Delaney –potential Democratic opponents in 2018 – have tweaked Hogan for his intransigence in separating himself from Trump.
Delaney even paid for a truck to haul a billboard around the State House questioning Hogan’s silence.
Callers to right-wing talk shows indicated a mixed verdict on Hogan’s “I won’t vote for Trump” statement. Some applauded him for taking a principled stand. Others condemned him for what they consider a turncoat action.
Campaigning for Szeliga
Hogan’s position may anger many staunch conservative Republicans in the short run but over the long term the discontented are likely to stick by Hogan when he runs for a second term in two years.
Those who doubt Hogan’s loyalty to the GOP will see the governor campaigning for Republican Del. Kathy Szeliga of Baltimore County, who is running for U.S. Senate in November. Szeliga has denounced some of Trump’s comments as racist and discriminatory, yet she has not gone as far as Hogan in her separation from the presidential candidate.
Questions will keep coming Hogan’s way, though. He has yet to condemn any of Trump’s beyond-the-pale accusations or indicated whether he agrees or disagrees with what Trump alleges.
Questions also will start coming about Hogan’s position on presidential issues that impact Maryland, such as the need, or lack of a need, for more gun-control legislation in light of the slaughter in Orlando.
The next four-plus months could be quite uncomfortable for Governor Hogan as he continues to try to tiptoe around the presidential conundrum Trump is creating for Republican leaders.