By David Reel
With the candidate filing deadline for the 2022 election cycle in Maryland coming up Feb. 22, speculation continues over whether Larry Hogan will challenge incumbent Democrat U. S Senator Chris Van Hollen in a bid to be the first Republican elected to the U.S. Senate from Maryland since 1980.
Hogan has steadfastly denied interest serving in the Senate. Going from being chief executive to being just one of 100 senators neither fits his ambition nor his governing style, though he did run for Congress twice in the last century.
Talk of a Hogan run has been used by Van Hollen in his fundraising appeals.
Today’s political arena operates in a VUCA world, one characterized by increasing levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
If Hogan does file to run for the Senate, there are good reasons that could result in a Hogan win in the GOP primary and in the November general election.
Reasons Hogan could run
Larry Hogan has consistently received extraordinarily high job approval numbers that continue into the present. In a Gonzales Poll conducted last month, 74% of Maryland voters say they approve of Hogan’s job performance. When broken down by party affiliation, 77.9% of Democrats say they approve, 68.9% of Republicans say they approve and 71.1% of Independents say they approve.
Chris Van Hollen’s polling numbers are not even close A Goucher College poll conducted last fall showed Van Hollen’s overall job approval rating at 44%, a shockingly low number and in the red zone for an incumbent U.S. Senator who was first elected with 60.9 % of the vote.
More good news for Hogan is that historically the political party that occupies the White House suffers losses in Congressional races in mid-year elections. Those losses, significant in recent years could be even more pronounced this year based on President Biden’s sinking job approval ratings and the rising negative reaction by voters to the impact of a sweeping progressive agenda of the Democrat leadership in Washington. That progressive agenda is one that Van Hollen has strongly and consistently supported. Maryland voters who are frustrated — even angry– about the impact of these policies on their daily lives may decide the most effective way to vent their frustration and address their “buyer’s remorse” caused by voting for the president is by voting for Republicans in November.
Having enough resources to mount a viable Senate campaign will not be a problem for Hogan. There are any number of deep pocket political contributors who would like nothing more than to help a candidate topple a progressive incumbent U.S Senator from a progressive blue state AND help flip control of the Senate to Republicans. Hogan can easily blunt any claims that he is benefiting from large contributions from multiple sources as Van Hollen has done and will do the same.
Hogan can showcase impressive private sector and public sector resume which includes founding and serving as CEO of a small business, growing that business and, of course, serving as Maryland governor for two terms. While serving as governor and as chair of the National Governors Association during COVID; Hogan received enormous amounts of name recognition from free media on cable and national networks and remains a popular go- to person for much of the national state and local media. Expect that to continue if he is in what could be one of the most closely watched and intensely followed U.S. Senate races in the country.
As a candidate for re-election as governor, Hogan mastered the art of successfully carrying out the dual roles of governing and campaigning in a statewide race. He can do it again.
Hogan has solid credentials as a Trump antagonist which will likely hurt him in a GOP primary here — troublesome, but not necessarily fatal — but is a reputation that is necessary for a win in a statewide race here.
Kelly Schulz, branding herself as Hogan 2.0 in her bid to succeed Hogan as governor could energize and mobilize swing Democrat voters who may conclude that voting for Hogan for Senate is a good way to go. On the other hand, the many Democrats who voted for Hogan twice might see it differently if it means loss of the U.S. Senate and the return of Mitch McConnell as majority leader.
Obviously all the above will be moot if Larry Hogan decides not to run for the Senate this election cycle. For all the reasons above, I believe he could win if he does run. Ultimately, Larry Hogan will use his finely developed political instincts in deciding what the best next stop may be for his political train whose final destination is widely anticipated to be a run for the White House at some point in the future. We will know soon if he will choose to test the validity of the ancient Latin proverb — “Fortune Favors the Bold”.