GOFFSTOWN, New Hampshire – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told a New Hampshire political breakfast Tuesday that he is “listening” to people encouraging him to mount a presidential bid against President Donald Trump.
But Hogan insisted he was not going to launch a “suicide mission” unless he thought there was a path to victory. While he considers a campaign, the governor revealed he is going to be visiting 16 more states.
“A lot of people have been approaching me,” Hogan said at “Politics and Eggs,” co-sponsored by the New England Council and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. “People have asked me to give this serious consideration and I think I owe it to those people to do just that.”
Hogan dismissed the notion that he would consider a presidential bid with an objective not of a victory, but of weakening Trump in the general election.
“I’m not interested in just running to hurt (or) bruise the president. I have a state to run,” he told reporters after his speech. “I’m out here talking about things that I think are important.”
Hogan said he does not want to run unless he believes he has a chance at victory.
“I have a real day job that’s important to me and (to) the people of Maryland,” he said.
Hogan drew a comparison to former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, the first Republican to announce a primary challenge to Trump, saying that “it is a different calculus” for someone who is not a sitting governor.
Hogan’s remarks are nevertheless the strongest indication to date that he is seriously considering a bid for the Republican nomination.
Hogan revealed that he has already been to 10 states, and plans to visit 16 more over the next few months, playing coy as to his specific plans in each of those states. He said he is going to simply “continue to listen” to what people have to say.
“Obviously I have very strong concerns about the future of my party and the future of the country,” Hogan said. “I’m going to take as much time as it takes to make that decision.”
Tom Rath, a veteran Republican strategist in New Hampshire, said the path to a Hogan victory would be difficult, but praised the Maryland governor’s credentials.
“(Hogan) is is competent, fiscally conservative and fair-minded on social issues,” Rath told WMUR. “He won twice in a very, very Democratic state and has had success.”
“The question,” Rath said, “is whether there is enough support here for someone to challenge the president, who, at the moment, has not just the hearts of many Republicans but also has a strong hold on the organization.”
Hogan’s decision to keep exploring a presidential run comes less than a week after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference and Trump’s possible obstruction of justice.
Hogan took aim at Trump for the revelations in the Mueller report, which concluded that there was no direct evidence of collusion, though it did not fully exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice.
“There was some really unsavory (and) disturbing stuff in the report,” Hogan said. “Just because aides did not follow his orders, that’s the only reason we don’t have obstruction of justice.”
Hogan stopped short of saying that the outcome of the report would weigh on his decision on whether to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination.
“(The report) did not make me proud of the president, and (it’s) certainly nothing to celebrate,” Hogan said. But he added that “it’s really about seeing what people think out there and whether there’s any path to victory and whether or not they’re really interested in having an alternative.”
A potential campaign strategy, Hogan indicated, might focus on the states that have open primaries, in which voters do not need to be affiliated with a political party in order to vote.
This would allow the moderate Republican, who enjoys a high approval rating in a state with a Democratic majority, to tap into undecided voters or Republicans yearning for more options.
“Here in New Hampshire, for example, they like to be independent, they like to look at the candidates and kick the tires and meet people one-on-one,” Hogan said. “I’m pretty good at retail politics.”
Hogan emphasized in his speech the legislative success he has achieved governing with a Democratic state legislatures, and some experts in attendance said Hogan’s history of bipartisanship could be an asset on the campaign trail.
“I think his remarks on how he has cooperated with Democrats in Maryland were well received, particularly among anti-Trump Republicans,” Andrew Smith, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire and the director of the UNH Survey Center, told Capital News Service.
Smith, however, remained skeptical that a successful primary challenge to Trump is realistic for Hogan.
“I’m not sure that he convinced many people that he would be capable of defeating Trump for the nomination,” Smith said.
Hogan said he also met with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on his trip. Hogan trails only Baker, also a moderate Republican in a deep-blue state, as the most popular governor in the country (Baker holds a 72 percent approval rating, while Hogan sits at 69, according to a Morning Consult poll).
When asked whether they discussed the 2020 election, Hogan replied: “A little bit.”