WASHINGTON — Larry Hogan will speak at a “Politics and Eggs” event in New Hampshire Tuesday as pundits wonder whether the Maryland governor will mount a primary challenge to Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
“The fact that Hogan is coming into New Hampshire is surely something of great interest to people who follow politics,” said Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, which hosts the speaker series.
Held in the state with the first presidential primary, “Politics and Eggs” is considered a must-stop event for presidential hopefuls. The series serves as a “forum for local business leaders to hear from presidential candidates in an intimate setting,” according to its website.
Several candidates have already spoken at the series this year, including these Democrats: South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, and California Sen. Kamala Harris. In addition, Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California spoke before he declared his candidacy, while Republican Bill Weld announced the creation of an exploratory committee during his appearance.
“‘Politics and Eggs’ is a storied event,” Levesque said. “It’s the perfect place for (Hogan) to come and talk to some New Hampshire people and potentially explore running.”
Interest now turns to whether Hogan will officially enter the race after months of speculation that he was considering a bid for the Republican nomination. Hogan, a moderate, won a second term in 2018, becoming the first Republican to do so in Maryland in more than 50 years.
Hogan has long been a vocal critic of the Trump administration, but he has publicly underscored the difficulty of a primary challenge to Trump.
“I’m concerned about the Republican Party, I’m concerned about the country…and the broken politics of today. (But) I also don’t want to go on some fool’s errand,” Hogan told CNBC in March. “I don’t want to just run around the country and put my family and everybody through that kind of an effort for no reason.”
Hogan enjoys a 69 percent approval rating, according to a Goucher poll, in a state where more than half of adults identify as Democrats.
Now, experts are wondering whether Hogan will use his history of successful bipartisan leadership to present himself as a sensible and unifying alternative to the divisiveness that has plagued Trump’s first term.
“Governors like (Hogan) do represent a segment of the Republican electorate that is unhappy with President Trump,” said Dante Scala, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. “So he could be speaking not just for himself, but for a segment of Republican voters.”
Even so, Hogan would face a steep uphill climb to the nomination.
Since 1972, no primary challenger to a sitting president has won his party’s nomination. Hogan would also be the second challenger to Trump, as Weld officially announced his candidacy this month.
“I think Trump will be the nominee very easily,” said Andrew Smith, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire and director of the UNH Survey Center. “He likely won’t face any significant challenge.”
A February poll by Smith’s center found that when New Hampshire GOP voters were given a list a candidates from which they could select a preference, 68 percent favored Trump. But more tantalizing to potential challengers like Hogan, the survey also found that 57 percent of likely GOP primary voters said they hadn’t decided on a 2020 candidate.
Should Hogan enter the race, experts speculate that he might be using Tuesday’s event to better position himself for a run in the next presidential election cycle in 2024.
“‘Politics and Eggs’ is a good place to go,” said Smith. “It is attended by high-level Republican and Democratic operatives as well as business people in the state. If they think (Hogan) does well, or has a good message, they can boost him.”
Above all, the event might just be a convenient way for the governor to raise his national profile.
“It’s a cheap flight from (Maryland) to Manchester,” Scala said.