Larry Hogan’s Realism

In an interview Sunday with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appeared less inclined to run for President next year, citing the common analysis that a crowded GOP field would likely renominate Donald Trump.

During Gov. Hogan’s appearance on the program, Mr. Todd asked him, “if you thought your candidacy was going to contribute to inadvertently helping Donald Trump, would that be a reason not to run?” Mr. Hogan answered affirmatively.

“That would be a pretty good reason to consider not running, absolutely,” Mr. Hogan responded. “I mean, I don't care that much about my future in the Republican Party; I care about making sure we have a future for the Republican Party. And, if we can stop Donald Trump and elect a great Republican common-sense conservative leader, that certainly would be a factor,” the former Free State Governor concluded.

In 2016, a multiple candidate field allowed Mr. Trump to capture the nomination because he consistently scored in the 35% support range through the early primaries. This allowed him to develop a significant lead in committed delegate votes, even though he was far from securing the necessary majority support.

Once candidates began consistently losing primaries and seeing little chance to reverse momentum, they systematically dropped out until only Mr. Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz remained as finalists, but with the latter man too far behind to overtake the leader. Thus, the Trump nomination was sealed.

It’s unlikely we will see as many candidates run in 2024. At one point eight years ago, 17 Republican hopefuls had declared their presidential candidacies with a dozen of them advancing into primary season. For 2024, we see only two announced GOP candidates, Mr. Trump and former UN Ambassador and ex-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are expected to join later in the year, as may Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and possibly a few others.

The more who enter, however, the higher Mr. Trump’s renomination chances climb. The former President’s strong base, while not yet a majority of the Republican Party’s electorate, is clearly more robust than any other candidate’s and, at least in the early going, is likely strong enough to top a crowded field. This explains why Mr. Trump was so conciliatory toward Ms. Haley announcing her campaign. His response was unusual since he is typically very harsh toward individuals he believes have committed “disloyal” acts.

In this case, however, the former President understands that Ms. Haley entering the race likely helps him, and obviously Gov. Hogan agrees. Mr. Trump would face his most difficult challenge if he is pitted one-on-one against another candidate, most specifically Gov. DeSantis.

To illustrate, let’s look at the new South Carolina poll – a critical early primary, and Ms. Haley’s home state – to see how her official entry affects the numbers.

The Neighborhood Research and Media organization ran a quick Palmetto State poll after Ms. Haley’s announcement. The survey (2/7-14; 300 SC likely Republican primary voters), though with a small sample over a long questioning period, still shows what one would expect: that is, Trump leading with less than 50%, DeSantis second, and Haley third.

The exact data yield finds Trump leading with 35%, DeSantis posting 22%, and Haley trailing at 16%. Sen. Scott was also included as was former Vice President Pence, but both perform poorly attracting only a 2% preference figure apiece.

The early polling also dispels to a degree the notion that Trump would be a sure loser in the general election against President Biden. Nationally, and in the key states such as Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, at least some polls show a renewed Trump candidacy leading the President, and all find him competitive within the polling margin of error. Gov. DeSantis, however, tends to poll slightly better opposite President Joe Biden, but the incumbent easily defeats Ms. Haley in all the early surveys.

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