Larry Hogan and the GOP’s blue-state blues – Washington Examiner

Republicans often dream of one of their blue-state success stories translating into an improbable federal election win.

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is the latest. The Republican is running for Senate from his deep-blue state this year, six years after winning reelection with 55.4% of the vote.

Hogan may have a better chance of winning than most Republicans in his position, according to a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll of the race to replace retiring Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). He wins close to a majority against Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, beating the Democrat 50% to 36%. Hogan also leads Rep. David Trone (D-MD) 49% to 37%.

“This poll shows why Democrats are panicking about Maryland,” Tate Mitchell, press secretary for the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, said in a statement. “Marylanders know and trust Larry Hogan, and they are eager to see him represent them in Washington the same way he did for eight years as governor.”


Maryland hasn’t had a Republican senator since Charles Mathias retired in 1987. Hogan is only the state’s second Republican governor since Spiro Agnew. Robert Ehrlich left office after a single term in 2007 following an unsuccessful reelection bid.

To win statewide office in Democratic bastions and then take his act on the road to Washington, D.C, Hogan will have to buck a lot of recent history. GOPer William Weld won reelection as governor of Massachusetts in 1994 with 71% of the vote. Running against Democratic Sen. John Kerry two years later, Weld got just 44%.

Mitt Romney won 41% against Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1994, running 30 points behind Weld. In his 1996 Senate campaign, Weld had to run 16 points ahead of Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole to do 3 points better than Romney had done against Kennedy.

The big difference between the two election years was that President Bill Clinton was at the top of the Democratic ticket in 1996. He won more than 61% of the vote in Massachusetts that year.

After Kennedy died, Republican Scott Brown won the Democratic icon’s seat in a 2010 special election. But Brown lost to Democrat Elizabeth Warren when he sought a full Senate term in 2012. That year, President Barack Obama was running for reelection and beat Romney, by then the former governor of Massachusetts, by 23 points, winning nearly 60.7% of the vote in the commonwealth.

Another 1990s GOP blue-state hero was Rudy Giuliani, who won two terms as mayor of New York City. His success, and Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s retirement, set up a highly anticipated Senate race against Hillary Clinton in 2000.

The contest never happened. Giuliani dropped out in May. While his withdrawal was mainly due to health concerns — he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, though he served out the rest of his term as mayor — even a Republican as popular as Giuliani might have struggled in a presidential election year. 

Al Gore won New York with 60.2% of the vote, beating George W. Bush by 25 points. It was the Democrats’ highest share of the presidential vote in the Empire State since Lyndon Johnson’s landslide over Barry Goldwater in 1964. The Senate race was closer, with then-first lady Hillary Clinton winning 55% to Republican Rick Lazio’s 43%.

The Senate seat Hogan is seeking last came open in 2006, a Democratic wave year. Republicans thought they had a good candidate in Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Steele posted a respectable showing but lost to Democrat Cardin by more than 10 points.

It is easier for Republicans to get elected governor of blue states than to federal office. Even a centrist or liberal Republican senator will empower conservative committee chairmen and a conservative GOP floor leader. Governors can more easily distance themselves from the national party and have less impact on hot-button issues like the federal judiciary and, before Roe v. Wade was overturned, abortion. 

The same poll that showed Hogan beating both Democrats running for Senate in Maryland also found that 55% of respondents preferred a Democratic Senate majority. Reducing Hogan to a generic Republican is an obvious path to victory for his eventual opponent.

In federal races, blue-state Republicans often lose some of the crossover voters that helped them win statewide office. To keep those voters in the fold, these GOP candidates might emphasize more liberal positions that deflate the conservative base.

Hogan will also have to run while President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are at the top of the respective tickets. Last time around in 2020, Biden beat Trump in Maryland by more than 30 points, winning over 65% of the vote. Hogan is anti-Trump but will require a lot of ticket-splitting to prevail.

One advantage Hogan does have is that his stature is greater than either of his Democratic challengers. Kennedy and Kerry were incumbents, while Clinton and Warren were already national figures when they first ran for Senate.


A competitive Maryland Senate race would expand the map for Republicans, who already are favored to retake the chamber because of the number of red-state opportunities available.

Hogan announced that he was running for the Senate seat last month.