DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Squelching speculation of a third-party presidential run, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Sunday endorsed Nikki Haley for the GOP nomination, saying he feels she “is the strongest chance” for Republicans to win in November.
Hogan told CNN's “State of the Union” he thinks “it’s pretty clear” that former President Donald Trump will win Monday's Iowa caucuses," but that Haley "has all of the momentum” to make her a strong nominee.
Hogan, one of his party’s fiercest Trump critics, had fueled speculation that he was preparing for his own third-party bid when he stepped down from the leadership of No Labels. A resignation letter dated Dec. 15 offered no criticism of the group, and Hogan declined to comment after the letter was obtained earlier this month by The Associated Press.
On Sunday, Hogan said he hadn’t meant to stoke rumors that he was planning his own run when he left the group, saying that he was focused on GOP efforts “to nominate the strongest possible Republican we can.”
“It kind of created a whole lot of speculation,” Hogan said. “I didn’t mean to do that. My position on No Labels has not changed.”
No Labels is seeking ballot access across the country as it lays the groundwork for a possible presidential ticket. The plans have spooked many Democrats and other Trump critics who fear it would siphon votes that would otherwise go to Democratic President Joe Biden and facilitate Trump’s return to the White House.
Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have been locked in a tight battle for second place in Iowa, which holds its leadoff GOP caucus vote on Monday night. The final pre-caucus Des Moines Register/NBC News poll found Trump maintaining a formidable lead in the state, supported by nearly half of likely caucus-goers compared with 20% for Haley and 16% for DeSantis.
Hogan suggested a strong second-place finish for Haley would give her momentum heading into next week's primary in New Hampshire, where he said "it's possible she could win, which would put her in much better position when she moves into her home state of South Carolina.’’
Some had previously hoped that Hogan would seek the GOP nomination this year himself. But in March, Hogan wrote in an op-ed that he wouldn't run because he cares “more about ensuring a future for the Republican Party than securing my own future in the Republican Party.”
Some Republicans had hoped that Hogan, emerging as the new best hope of a small group of “Never Trump Republicans,” would also challenge Trump in 2020. But a year after Hogan’s reelection in 2018, he said that while he appreciated “all of the encouragement” he had received to run for president, he would not. Hogan told AP he had no interest in a “kamikaze mission.”
In the past two presidential elections, Hogan said he did not vote for Trump, the party nominee. Hogan said he wrote in the name of his father, former U.S. Rep. Larry Hogan Sr., in 2016 and the late President Ronald Reagan in 2020.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP
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