Larry Hogan has serious doubts that Donald J. Trump can win a second term. And, Hogan also told CBS News in an appearance Wednesday morning, he’s been hearing from Republican politicos that he should challenge the sitting president with a 2020 primary bid.
“I am being approached by a lot of different people and I guess the best way of putting it is I haven’t been throwing them out of my office,” the 62-year-old Republican Maryland governor said.
"The issue I'm concerned about is he has a very low re-elect number, I think in the 30s, high 30s, low 40s," Hogan said. "So the chance of him losing a general election are pretty good. I'm not saying he couldn't win, but he's pretty weak in the general election. At some point," Hogan continued, "if he weakens further, Republicans would say we're concerned about whether or not he's going to win if we're going to face a very far-left Democratic nominee, and is he going to take the rest of us down with him if you're an elected official."
Hogan, of course, won reelection in blue Maryland—a state with one of the largest minority populations in the country—this past November by more than 13 points.
In 2016, Hogan was one of the highest profile Republican officeholders not to endorse Trump. He did not vote for Hillary Clinton either, he says, but wrote in the name of his father—former Maryland U.S. representative and Prince George’s County Executive Lawrence Hogan Sr. In terms of supporting Trump in 2020, “I don’t see how my position would’ve changed much from before," Hogan said.
Hogan also offered what he called “friendly advice,” suggesting Trump lower his rhetoric and think through his decisions before making policy and implementing presidential powers.
“I've been pretty clear, I don’t like the tone that the president uses,” Hogan said. “I think there are times where he acts irrationally, and makes decisions and . . . does things in a way that aren't great for the Republican Party, or for the country, or for him and his agenda, for that matter. I mean, I think sometimes he can be his own worst enemy."
He added he was “not in any position to judge the fitness of the president.”
If Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report comes back with compelling evidence regarding Trump collusion with Russian interference in the 2016 election or other wrongdoing, Hogan believes the Republican primary might become crowded fast.
“I think you would see a number of potential challengers in the Republican Party consider jumping in.”
Last week, former Republican Massachusetts Governor William Weld announced he was forming an exploratory committee around a potential 2020 bid. In our October profile of Hogan, Rick Wilson, a longtime Republican strategist and author of Everything Trump Touches Dies, described Hogan as “an interesting guy to watch.”
“He may not be on the radar of the average voter outside Maryland,” Wilson said, “but political nerds know him.”
As part of Hogan’s new role as head of the National Governors Association next month, he will visit Iowa—long the nation’s key, first primary state.
“I would say the election is still two years away and we don’t know who the nominees will be in either party,” Hogan said.
In terms of recent policy disagreements with the president, Hogan believes using the declaration of emergency powers to declare an emergency at the border was the wrong thing to do: "You know, I think the president made some real mistakes here. We've exaggerated what's going on at the border.”
He also said many in the GOP, including those in Congress, “have not stood up when they think the president is doing something wrong.”
“I have not been afraid to do that,” Hogan said, then pointing—perhaps not coincidentally—to his father’s actions during Watergate as his model.
In the interview, Hogan noted his late father, a former U.S. representative and FBI agent, was the first Republican in Congress to publicly support the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. “No man, not even the president of the United States, is above the law,” Hogan’s father implored during a 1974 hearing.
In a Goucher Poll released Tuesday, Hogan’s popularity among Marylanders remained high with 69 percent indicating they approve of the job he is doing as governor. On the other hand, only a third of Marylanders think that Hogan should run for president in 2020 while 55 percent do not think he should launch a campaign. (Maryland obviously is a politically safe state to take on Trump. In the same poll, 66 percent of Marylanders disapproved of the job the president is doing.)
Meanwhile, President Trump has yet to respond to Hogan’s interview. He’s been more consumed so far today on Twitter with former FBI acting director Andrew McCabe and his new book, The Threat, the “fake news” Washington Post, the “enemy of the people” New York Times, and California’s “already failed” efforts to build a high-speed train.
Earlier, Trump did tweet, however, that he wished “Crazy Bernie” well after Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced he was running again for the Democratic nomination.