Back during the 2022 midterms, Maryland's then-Governor Larry Hogan had a big decision to make. He was term-limited so he couldn't run for Governor again, but there was a Senate seat up for grabs in his state. Many in the GOP urged Hogan to challenge Chris Van Hollen and the popular governor would have stood a good chance of taking the seat. But he had his eyes on a presidential bid for some strange reason. Now that that plan has fallen entirely flat, he's changed his tune. Yesterday he made it official on Twitter (or "X" if you insist). He will seek to replace retiring Senator Ben Cardin.
It's official - I'm running for the United States Senate to fight for Maryland and fix the broken politics in Washington.— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) February 9, 2024
Like the vast majority of Marylanders, I’m completely fed up with politics-as-usual and the politicians in Washington who are more interested in arguing than… pic.twitter.com/IOGjIwIjoe
Before anyone gets too excited about the GOP picking up a Senate seat in Maryland for the first time in almost four decades, we should remind ourselves exactly what sort of Senator Hogan would make and which opportunities were left on the table by his wishy-washy approach to his political career. The Associated Press has more details.
Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday that he will run for U.S. Senate, giving Republicans a prominent candidate who is well-positioned to run a competitive campaign for the GOP in a state that hasn’t had a Republican U.S. senator in 37 years.
The decision marks a surprise turnaround for Hogan, a moderate who had considered a presidential bid. During Hogan’s tenure as governor, he became a national figure as one of the rare Republicans willing to criticize Donald Trump. Last month, Hogan stepped down from the leadership of the third-party movement No Labels.
“My fellow Marylanders: you know me,” Hogan begins in a video released by his Senate campaign. “For eight years, we proved that the toxic politics that divide our nation need not divide our state.”
Given the current political landscape, let's take note of the fact that Larry Hogan is 67 years old. He'll be 68 by the time of the election. Granted, that's still fourteen years younger than Biden and a decade younger than Trump, but he's no spring chicken. He's on television all the time and I've never noticed any signs of cognitive issues, so perhaps he'll be fine. But Joe Biden has made this a front-of-mind issue for voters this year, so it's worth remembering. He's also had to deal with some very serious health issues, but thankfully he seems to have gotten those under control.
If Hogan does manage to get elected, this will be a mixed bag for conservatives. Any opportunity to nab another GOP seat in the upper chamber and inch close to taking back the majority will be welcome of course. But we shouldn't expect much help from him when it comes to serious and frequently divisive conservative legislation. Hogan is not now and has never been a conservative on any issues aside from sometimes pushing for lower taxes. He originally ran in Maryland as a Republican because his father (who served in Congress) was a Republican. Neither were terribly conservative, particularly by modern standards.
And all of this assumes that he can even win. Marylanders were willing to elect Hogan to run their own state twice and he had one of the highest approval ratings of any governor in the nation. But he was only responsible for their state back then. Now the Democrat voters in Maryland will have to factor in the question of whether or not they want to decrease the Democrats' already razor-thin Senate majority even further. Given the politically divided nature of the country today, that may be too much to ask.
It's hard to get too excited about a Larry Hogan Senatorial bid while still remembering how things might have played out differently if he had made this run during the 2022 midterms. The Democrats barely gained a majority and Hogan could have been a real difference-maker. Instead, he had to pursue a futile presidential bid that never got off the ground and flirted with the No Labels party. Larry Hogan was undoubtedly very successful inside of Maryland's rather unique political atmosphere, but on the national stage, he will likely always be the wrong guy at the wrong time.