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As he mulls presidency, Hogan offers Republicans tough love

Maryland governor urges GOP to pivot toward hope: ‘We won’t win back the White House by nominating Donald Trump or a cheap impersonation of him’

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Jan. 11 in Annapolis. (Brian Witte/AP)
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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan used a marquee address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Tuesday to deliver a tough-love speech to fellow Republicans, calling the Trump era the party’s worst period in generations and pitching his vision of cross-party appeal as the only way forward.

Hogan stopped short of declaring plans to shape the GOP by running for president. But he argued in a sharply worded speech that Republicans are “desperately in need of a course correction” and a more hopeful leader, positioning himself as that potential contender in 2024.

“This is a fight for America’s future, and that is a fight worth fighting for,” he said in closing. “There is a better path forward if we only we have the courage to seize it.”

A popular two-term Republican governor from a deeply Democratic state, Hogan has kept the door open to a presidential bid while raising his national profile, meeting with donors and raising cash for his political advocacy group, An America United.

He’s worked the D.C. political television circuit as a GOP leader willing to speak against Donald Trump, and stumped for candidates outside Maryland who are also willing to distance themselves from the former president. He’s decried the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol as a riot, and in his speech at the Simi Valley, Calif., library on Tuesday said it was “incited by the losing candidate’s inflammatory false rhetoric.”

“The last four years were the worst four years for the GOP Party since the 1930s, even worse than after Watergate when Ronald Reagan had to rebuild the party from the ashes,” Hogan said. “We lost the White House, the Senate, the House. We lost governors’ seats, and state legislative bodies. Trump said we would be winning so much we’d would get tired of winning. Well, I’m tired of our party losing.”

He said any GOP gains in this year’s midterms should be viewed as a repudiation of President Biden but that “we can’t let that fool us into complacency.”

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“A party that lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections, and that couldn’t even beat Joe Biden, is desperately in need of a course correction,” he said. “The truth is the last election was not rigged. It wasn’t stolen. We simply didn’t offer the majority of voters what they were looking for.”

Hogan argued that voters want someone who offers “a hopeful, positive vision” because they are “completely disgusted with the toxic politics, and they’re sick and tired of all the lies and excuses.” He touted his own success appealing to Maryland’s Democratic and independent voters, as well as support from suburban women and Asian, Latino and Black people.

“We won’t win back the White House by nominating Donald Trump or a cheap impersonation of him,” Hogan said.

Hogan has ruled out using his political capital in Maryland — an approval rating above 70 percent after seven years in office — to run for U.S. Senate this year, despite repeated overtures from party power brokers. He has said he plans to “run through the tape” during his time in Annapolis before he makes a decision about presidential bid next year.

It would be an uphill endeavor in a party still dominated by Trump: The few public polls that include Hogan show him with a tiny share of the vote, well behind the former president, former vice president Mike Pence and other potential candidates who have embraced Trump’s style, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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But Hogan has said he thinks Trump’s potency will wane if candidates backed by the former president start losing in primaries and the midterms in November. He told CBS News recently that those losses, plus a multicandidate fight to be the next Trump, would help open a lane for a candidate appealing to a segment of Republicans ready to move on from Trump.

Hogan’s speech, part of the Reagan Library’s ongoing “Time for Choosing” series, tied his vision for the GOP back to Reagan, whom he called a formative political influence. In 2020, Hogan wrote in Reagan for president rather than voting for Trump.

Hogan’s advocacy organization released a video promoting the speech and pairing footage of Hogan with a voice-over of Reagan saying, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.”