Larry Hogan draws wrath of Trump World

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is incurring the wrath of former President Trump’s top allies after he urged voters to “respect the verdict” in Trump’s New York hush money trial.

Yet he’s also seeing Senate Republican leaders come to his defense, backing his need to operate his Senate bid in a deep blue state — a seat long considered unflippable —  without interference from MAGA forces.

Hogan sparked outrage from that camp last week when he called on “all leaders” to “reaffirm what has made this nation great: the rule of law.”

Chris LaCivita, Trump’s campaign manager, quickly responded by saying, “You just ended your campaign,” while Republican National Committee co-Chair Lara Trump said Hogan “doesn’t deserve the respect of anyone in the Republican Party at this point and, quite frankly, anybody in America.”

Other Trump allies piled on.

“I think it was a huge mistake,” said Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio), who is in the running to be Trump’s pick for vice president. “When he says things that would alienate the majority of Republicans … I think it’s totally reasonable to criticize him.”

Yet Vance and others acknowledged the political realities that Hogan faces as he prepares for a November fight with Prince George County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D). President Biden’s 33-point win in the Old Line State four years ago was his third-biggest margin of victory in any state, meaning Hogan must appeal to moderate Democrats to have any shot at winning.

“He obviously is going to run a different campaign than I would run,” Vance said. “I still hope he wins.”

Hogan’s antipathy for the former president is well documented, but he has had the full support of the Senate GOP apparatus since he launched his surprise campaign to replace Sen. Ben Cardin (D) in February. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) heavily recruited Hogan to run.

NRSC Chair Steve Daines (R-Mont.), a top Trump supporter, maintained that he has Hogan’s back despite the outcry from Trump World and noted that Hogan is running in a Democratic stronghold, “not Mississippi.”

“Obviously, he’s going to have some views that maybe don’t reflect where folks from other parts of the country are on that,” Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican. “He’s run a campaign [in Maryland]. He knows best how to win in his state, and we need him in the Senate.”

Hogan’s response to Trump’s guilty verdict was the most recent example of the former governor breaking with his party.

His campaign rolled out an ad last week in which he vowed to codify Roe v. Wade if elected governor “so every woman can make her own choice” — remarks Democrats seized upon immediately.

He also has maintained in recent months that he will not vote for either Trump or Biden come November.

“Hogan is defined already in the state positively,” said Doug Heye, a GOP strategist. “He’s able to have more of a conversation with voters that he wants to have, as opposed to the conversation that Alsobrooks wants to have about Larry Hogan.”

However, Hogan’s comments on the verdict drew criticism from both sides of the aisle, demonstrating a unique problem for the popular former governor.

“In this environment and on this issue in particular, the word bipartisanship can be interpreted as granting moral equivalency to Republicans and Democrats, and that is not the way to win over either side in such a polarized environment,” said Len Foxwell, a Maryland Democratic strategist. “In his efforts to thread the needle and be all things to all people, my concern is that in this particular instance, he ended up appeasing no one.”

Top Democrats also argue that while Hogan has seen success in the state — he left the governor’s mansion in with a 77 percent approval rating — both of his gubernatorial bids came in midterm cycles, and running on the same ticket as Trump and Biden will be an entirely different beast.

“Marylanders do not want to hear that Mitch McConnell, that Steve Daines are like, ‘Oh he’s running a good race,’” one Democratic operative said. “They don’t want to be reminded that Larry Hogan is going to join the Republican majority.”

“You’ve got to convince Democrats that it’s OK for them to elect someone who would join a Republican majority,” the operative added.

Top Democrats are also quick to note polls showing that voters in the state want the upper chamber to be controlled by Democrats and are trying to tie Hogan to a brand of Republicanism they believe is toxic in the state.

“We all agree and it should not be a revolutionary thought that anyone should respect the decision of the jury. … It’s only revolutionary in Trump World,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a top Alsobrooks backer.

“Larry Hogan decided to jump into this race,” he continued, “and the one thing we know for sure is that for Larry Hogan is a vote to put Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz in charge of the United Senate.”

Hogan is facing off with Alsobrooks, who handily dispatched Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) in one of the most expensive Senate primary races in U.S. history. She is trying to become the first Black and woman senator in the state’s history.

While Hogan’s remarks were surely intended to boost him with moderate and left-leaning voters, they’re landing with a thud on the right. Despite Hogan’s widespread popularity, nearly 28 percent of voters backed Robin Ficker, a political gadfly, in last month’s primary against the ex-governor.

As some Trump supporters note, Hogan will need to win all corners of the electorate — including conservatives and ardent backers of the ex-president.

“He needs Republicans to vote for him too,” said Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), who was one of the first senators to endorse Trump’s campaign.

“I want him to win,” he added.

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