The strange and difficult case of Larry Hogan for Senate

Larry Hogan’s (R-Md.) latest Senate campaign ad takes aim at former President Donald Trump, signals friendship with Republican liberals, brags about his COVID response as governor, and might be completely necessary to win.

In the 31-second ad, the popular former governor lauds his father, the late Republican Congressman Lawrence Hogan, who went all-in on impeaching Republican President Richard Nixon. Next, he speaks highly of the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for infamously tanking his party’s attempt to repeal Obamacare. Then, Hogan goes on to brag about Maryland’s COVID response (which was lackluster but not as heinous as others) and concludes with a quote from the late Democratic hero President John F. Kennedy saying that “sometimes party loyalty demands too much.”

The ad is a clear shot at the top of the Republican ticket, a sign to conservatives in D.C. that he’s not going to be their pal and a signal to liberal Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) that he intends to join their ranks even as Mitt Romney (Utah) exits stage left.

A reliable vote for tax cuts and foreign wars is all well and good, but what about the hard votes, like opposing bad judges?

While the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Steve Daines (Mont.), has been asking to give Hogan more room to attack Republicans for months, the ad may still come as a surprise to some of his colleagues. After all, Hogan left the governor’s mansion as one of the most popular governors in the country. What good does it do to attack conservatives now? Why alienate those Eastern Shore and western Maryland Republicans you need to come out and vote for you?

The reality of politics in Maryland is not so easy, however. The Maryland Republicans and conservatives Blaze News spoke with all agreed the new tact is vital for a Hogan win.

The first thing is math. There are simply not enough Republicans in Maryland. Barack Obama beat McCain, for example, by more than 25 points in the Old Line State — and that was the closest a Republican’s come since. Obama beat Romney by more than 26 points; Hillary Clinton beat Trump by just slightly more; and then in 2020, Biden took the state by a staggering 33.21 points.

“Only 23 percent of our state is Republican,” Hogan explained in May, “so we’ve got to win nearly all of them, and nearly all of the independents, and then about 30 percent of the Democrats.”

It’s a tall order, though one he’s accomplished before. Early polling showed Hogan with a 20-point lead over the opposition — the kind of margin that makes slacking your party’s nominee inexcusable. Running for D.C. is different from running for Annapolis, however. With a tight margin of control in the Senate, Democrats will work hard to paint a vote for Hogan as a vote for departing Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (one of the least popular men in America) and Trump’s agenda.

“Maryland demographics are unique,” one Hogan alum told Blaze News. “It’s 2-1 Democrat to Republican, so even if you get 100 percent of GOP votes you get blown out of the water. And even Maryland independents aren’t standard issue — an Ohio independent is basically a Maryland Republican, politically.”

So, in addition to winning Republicans and Maryland’s special breed of independents, the governor needs nearly a third of Democrats voting for Biden to break for the Republican for Senate. A hard get, by any metric.

But is a Hogan win worth it for conservatives? That’s more difficult to answer. A Sen. Hogan could be counted on to vote with Republicans more than half of the time, of course, while a Democrat in the seat could be counted on to vote against Republicans virtually 100% of the time. But what will those Republican votes mean for a helpful agenda beyond bolstering a party leadership class already antagonistic toward the right?

A reliable vote for tax cuts and foreign wars is all well and good, but what about the hard votes, like opposing bad judges or resisting Democrats’ culture war attacks?

“The whole Hogan candidacy is ridiculous,” one longtime Senate observer told Blaze News. “He’s going to vote like a Democrat, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee will waste money electing him instead of electing actually threatened Republicans, like Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas.”

“Hogan keeps Republicans running in place. For status-quo zealots like McConnell, that’s enough. For the rest of us, it means we continue to lose traction on everything that actually matters.”

Then, treading water is better than actively drowning. And Maryland ain’t electing anyone to Hogan’s right this decade. That’s an easy call. The tougher question is whether it’s worth the resources it takes from competitive races elsewhere. Republicans are betting yes. Conservatives are a little more wary.

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IN OTHER NEWS

Still no winner in Freedom Caucus chairman’s primary

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Bob Good (R-Va.) is still locked in a bitter primary battle with former Navy SEAL Bob McGuire, in a race that pit conservative activists against the combined efforts of Trump, former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, and Republican National Committee COO Chris LaCivita.

“If he’s re-elected, Bob Good will stab Virginia in the back, sort of like he did with me,” Trump said during an “online rally” for McGuire Monday night.

As of the last updates, just after midnight, McGuire held the slight lead he’d maintained most of the evening, with around 95% of ballots counted. Just under 330 votes separated the two.

“Remember, there are still provisional votes to count AND ballots postmarked as of June 18 that arrive between [Wednesday] and Friday will also be counted,” the Virginia Public Access Project tweeted late Tuesday night. “In other words, it’s likely we will be waiting until at least Friday for this race to be officially called.”

Pundits have tried to paint the race as the former president vs. the Freedom Caucus, though much of it was personal. Relations between Good and Trump soured after Good endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ bid for the Republican nomination.

Good’s relationship with McCarthy went from tense to terminal after he voted to oust the speaker; and his history with Trump adviser LaCivita goes back for years of Old Dominion political brawls and includes grudges between staff. As the head of the Freedom Caucus, however, Good has long enjoyed the strong support of the types of conservative activists who reliably turn out for contested primaries.

Those conservatives are furious. Articles in the lead-up to the race have included quotes from conservative activists and Good supporters who feel Trump’s attack on Good went too far.

The Republican nominee’s relationship with the conservative group of lawmakers has never been quite as cozy as the corporate media has claimed. While Freedom Caucus alumni Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) served as chiefs of staff during his first term in the White House, the Freedom Caucus opposed Trump’s spending bills and fought the administration on the details of the bitter Obamacare repeal fight. Back before his relationship with former caucus Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan took a turn for the better, Trump even called for a primary against the Ohio Republican.

The fire rises

This section is usually reserved for something smart about either the collapse of society or the inspired efforts to restore it. Today, I’ll simply leave you with this video of Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband welcoming “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” “expert groomer” Jonathan Van Ness for a 20th anniversary reception honoring the show.

Completely absurd. Behold your leaders (and their priorities).

ANDREA RENAULT/AFP via Getty Images & Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for GLAAD

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