ANNAPOLIS, Maryland — Outgoing Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is conducting focus groups of Republican voters around the country as part of his not-yet-official 2024 presidential campaign, the governor confirmed on Monday night in a farewell interview with the Washington Examiner.
The focus groups are trying to determine how Republican primary voters feel about a governor who openly opposed Trump repeatedly even while working with Trump’s White House and agreeing on many policies.
“What we’re finding is that even people that strongly supported Donald Trump and his policies are looking to go in a different direction. They’re willing to vote for someone who was not supportive of Trump,” Hogan said.
“My name ID isn’t very high,” Hogan said. He has very high ratings in Maryland, where he served two terms, but nationwide, “most people don’t know me.”
Hogan has used the focus group to test a message about his record in Maryland and to determine how big a negative his criticism of Trump will be. The focus groups were told that Hogan wasn’t a Trump supporter but that he often agreed with Trump’s policies and even worked closely with the Trump White House on COVID.
Hogan said “75, 80%” of likely Republican voters in these focus groups said they would consider voting for him.
Focus groups were shown clips of Hogan talking about his record, such as increasing police presence in Baltimore during the 2015 riots after Freddie Gray died in the back of a police van. “But we also listened to the concerns and walked the streets and tried to lower the temperature and bring people love that was off the charts,” Hogan described his approach.
Hogan also pointed to his two election victories as evidence he can compete in a GOP primary. “I did just as well with base Republicans and self-described conservatives as Donald Trump did, but I was able to add to that by winning suburban women, by winning Asians and Hispanics, and by getting 30% of the black vote.”
Hogan has painted himself as a pragmatic leader who works with the opposition instead of attacking it and thus can win swing voters and deliver victory to Republicans.
“We are getting unbelievably positive feedback,” Hogan said.
Instead of voting for Trump for president in 2016, Hogan wrote in his father, a former congressman. In 2020, he wrote in Ronald Reagan for president. This alienated many Republican voters during Trump’s presidency, but Trump’s popularity has been falling since losing reelection in 2020, making the base more welcoming to an occasional Trump critic, Hogan hopes.
“I felt like I was out there by myself when nobody was speaking out or standing up” regarding Trump’s harm to the party. “I felt like I was out there on a life raft all by myself. Well, now I think the Titanic is sinking.”