Well, perhaps not literally begging, but it’s not far off from it.
The Washington Post has to keep a certain number of conservative and Republican writers on staff to preserve at least the appearance of balance in their opinion section. One of these has been Jennifer Rubin for quite some time now. Her interest in providing any sort of support to the GOP, however, has long been dubious at best. That seems clear yet again this week, which finds Rubin writing about how Maryland Governor Larry Hogan can’t afford to wait too long to jump into the Republican primary race for next year.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, whom The Post describes as “one of the highest-profile Republicans open to running against President Trump,” was in Iowa this week ostensibly on National Governors Association business. Hogan reiterated the message about his presidential prospects that he has been using for a couple of months:
“It currently makes no sense, with a president that has the kind of approval rating that he does in his own party,” Hogan said in an interview. “Having said that, I’ve said things can change, and we don’t know what it might look like a few months from now.”
It’s not clear how far in polls of Republicans Trump would have to fall to induce Hogan to declare. It might be that the Mueller report or some other revelation pushes a significant number of Republicans over the edge, giving Hogan an obvious opening to declare. However, there is a chicken-and-egg problem here: Until Hogan gets into the race and starts hammering away at Trump, he won’t know how fragile Trump’s support really is.
It’s first worth pointing out that Rubin has a long history of supporting Republican presidential candidates… provided the candidate’s name is Mitt Romney. Other than that, not so much. But her anger toward Donald Trump really seems to have eclipsed her disdain for other non-Romney GOPers. That’s been evident since the day Trump declared his candidacy.
But just for the sake of humoring her, let’s look at the proposal she’s putting on the table. Her theory is that Hogan is a really popular and likable guy who might match up well against Trump. When Hogan says that it “makes no sense” to run a primary bid against a sitting president with the approval ratings Trump rings up in his own party, Ruben has an answer ready. We don’t know how far those numbers will fall until Hogan starts hammering on him.
If we took that premise completely in a vacuum I suppose there might be some possible merit to it. But we don’t need to live in a vacuum on this one. First, I will note that Rubin is absolutely correct about one thing. Larry Hogan is very popular… in Maryland. His approval rating is a staggering 78% among all voters. He’s the second most popular governor in the country.
But Maryland is a blue state where even the Republicans tend to run significantly to the left of the rest of the base. Hogan is very popular with blue state Democrats and independents for many reasons. He’s been a fairly solid fiscal conservative on budget matters and taxes, but he’s signed many bills into law including approving new gun control measures. He allowed at least two new expansions to abortion rights to pass into law by refusing to sign or veto them. He signed new climate change bills mandating big cuts in carbon output.
In short, Hogan is the kind of Republican who can win in a state like Maryland, but only in a state like Maryland. And he’s no dummy. He knows he has a good thing going right where he is and that the national base would eat him alive in a primary. As for his comments about Trump’s numbers, he’s spot on there as well. Even if he thought he might stand a chance on the national GOP stage, Trump’s approval among all Republicans is at least 90% these days. (And he’s been creeping dangerously close to 50% among registered voters lately.)
Why in the world would Larry Hogan endanger the good thing he’s got going back home to take a suicidal run at the President in the primary? The short answer is, he wouldn’t. He tosses out comments like the one he made in Iowa because it’s flattering to be thought of as a presidential contender. The guy just isn’t that dumb, however. But you keep right on thinking, Jennifer. That’s what you’re best at.