By Barry Rascovar
Jan. 15, 2018 — Yes, we’re a long way from the November elections but Gonzales Research and Media Services’ first poll of 2018 contained some tantalizing results for both Democrats and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
The governor remains remarkably popular — 71 percent overall approval rating. That includes 61 percent approval among Democrats and 78 percent among independents.
Given those sky-high numbers, plus the staggering sums of money Hogan is raising for his reelection campaign, he looks like a shoo-in.
Yet other numbers in the Gonzales poll tell a more cautionary story.
As Gonzales points out in a column he wrote for Maryland Reporter, a stunning 90 percent of Democrats who said they “somewhat” approved of Hogan’s job performance still would not vote for him in the fall.
Why? Because the poll identified Hogan as a Republican — a highly negative connotation in some quarters these days.
Even worse news followed in the poll. Hogan only leads the most likely Democratic nominee, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, by 10 points.
Here’s the kicker: President Trump’s disapproval rating is a whopping 60 percent — and over 80 percent of those people feel strongly about that sentiment. Moreover, 41 percent of those polled said the most important issue of the day is “removing Donald Trump.”
If those trends continue, the anti-Trump tsunami that seems to be building might threaten Hogan’s hopes for a second term.
Similarities to Ehrlich
Remember that the last Republican governor in Maryland, Bob Ehrlich, enjoyed high approval numbers going into his 2006 reelection campaign. Yet Ehrlich ended up with just 46 percent of the vote.
Hogan also has to be concerned by the spanking Republicans received last November in the off-off-year elections for local offices in many states. A huge wave washed over those state campaigns prompted by voters’ anger, fear and dislike for Trump.
Syndicated columnist George Will pointed out, for instance, the shocking GOP losses in stronghold suburban Philadelphia counties: For the first time ever, Republicans lost all offices in Chester County, all but one office in Bucks County and had their worst showing in Delaware County since 1974.
That’s just one of many examples across the nation of the 2017 “wave” election that favored Democrats amid growing anti-Trump sentiment.
The Gonzales poll indicates that Baker could well consolidate a huge vote in the populous Washington suburbs. Should an anti-Trump wave wash over Baltimore City and portions of its suburbs, Hogan might find himself in a nip-and-tuck battle.
The first- of-the-year poll also showed Baker with a 10-point lead over Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and former NAACP president Ben Jealous. That lead could prove hard to overcome in such a large field, especially since there’s little difference among candidates on issues.
An early June primary also hurts candidates trying to catch up, as does the likelihood of a light turnout in early summer when folks are planning their vacations and trips to the ballpark.
For Hogan, though, the name of the Democratic nominee is less important than the Trump factor.
The president’s crude, uninhibited and spontaneous outbursts as well as his unconventional policy decisions have provoked an unprecedented furor. The more Trump engages in hot rhetoric and campaigns loudly for Republicans over the next ten months, the less secure Hogan’s chances become.