No Labels’ Hogan is swinging at media softballs; maybe he needs a hardball debate

No Labels’ Hogan is swinging at media softballs; maybe he needs a hardball debate

Former Gov. Larry Hogan on ABC TV last month. Screen shot

Every four years we hear, “this is the most important election in our lifetimes.”  More plausible is 2024 will be the strangest election in our lifetimes.  Former President Donald Trump, ensnared in a legal morass that many believe is the result of partisan prosecutors, is nevertheless poised to win the nomination. President Joe Biden, who many perceive as too old for another term, has recently drawn a credible primary challenge for that very reason.

Enter Maryland’s former Gov. Larry Hogan who is positioning himself to run for President on the No Labels ticket.  What happens then?  Now is as good a time as any to raise questions about a debate as No Labels works behind the scenes to raise money and develop a party infrastructure.  There is precedent this election cycle for debates taking place outside of established norms.  Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for the Republican nomination, and California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, have agreed to face off on November 30.

Headlines such as “Hogan not ruling out a Presidential run” have been circulating for months. Hogan, who serves as National Co-Chair of No Labels, has received enormous media attention this year, essentially mounting a shadow candidacy for President. Yet he has escaped the scrutiny of other candidates.  That is by design. Hogan has avoided formally declaring himself a candidate just as he did when laying the groundwork before formally announcing for governor in 2014.  The media strategy boosts name ID and gives Hogan a platform to advance his political agenda.  However, the easy questions has Hogan coming across like a retired NFL coach analyzing a football game on a half-time show, not a Presidential contender.

Easy questions of Hogan so far

For example, a Bloomberg TV host asked Hogan Oct. 10 about the Speaker of the House drama. “What do you make of everything that’s happened in the House over the last few days?” In a September interview, Robert Costa, on CBS, asks if the Republican field has too many candidates to defeat Trump. Dana Bash on CNN starts off her August interview after the first Republican debate like this, “you’re one of Trump’s biggest critics.” Then she goes on to ask how he felt when Republican candidates pledged to support Trump even if he is convicted of a crime.

Responding to such questions, Hogan gives his analysis of the Republican Party which goes unchallenged. So too does his governing record.  Some will see the mainstream media’s desire to simply highlight a Republican criticizing other Republicans and Trump in particular.  So, perhaps these Republicans, with varying ties to Maryland, could do what the media has failed to do, namely elicit the rationale for a Hogan -No Labels campaign.  Here are some individuals who come to mind:

Who might debate Hogan

Dan Bongino: The former Secret Service agent has a large conservative social media following, popular radio show and podcast, and is a battle-tested candidate in Maryland congressional elections. Bongino, while coming up short in seeking elected office for Senate and House, is now one of the nation’s top radio talk show hosts.  His fiery personality and consistently conservative policy principles would mark a stark contrast to Hogan’s more moderate positions.

Bob Ehrlich: The former governor has been quiet about Hogan who served as a cabinet secretary in his administration.  His stellar political resume includes two terms as a former delegate and member of Congress. His political books ranging from the Obama to the Trump Administrations capture the pulse of modern political history.

Kim Klacik:  As a congressional candidate in 2020, she marched through the streets in Baltimore calling attention to urban blight in a viral campaign commercial.  She’s not afraid to raise questions about Hogan either, as she has done as a talk show host on Baltimore radio station WCBM.

Channeling Ronald Reagan, Hogan gave a speech at the Reagan Library under the banner “A Time for Choosing.”  The 1964 speech launched Ronald Reagan’s political career. It’s no coincidence that Hogan invites the comparison.  So perhaps Bongino, Ehrlich or Klacik might be among those defining Hogan’s version of a time for choosing.

Equally compelling is a Democratic debate challenge.  After all, it’s voices on the left who are most concerned about a No Labels campaign drawing more votes from Biden than Trump. Former Gov. Martin O’Malley comes to mind.  One obstacle is that he is awaiting Senate confirmation to head the Social Security Administration.  But others might be more free to speak including Attorney General Anthony Brown, Hogan’s opponent in the 2014 governor’s race.

Whether it’s from the right or left, the mere challenge of a debate would help get Hogan off the sidelines.  The debate itself would prepare Hogan for the national stage, enable voters to bypass the media filter and see an alternative vision for the country.  With so much on the line nationally in this time of electoral chaos, let’s have the debate.

About The Author

Frank Howard

Frank Howard is chairman of Washington D.C.-based Accuracy in Media and a Montgomery County resident.

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