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Hogan’s exploration of a presidential bid intensifies

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) speaks at Politics & Eggs, a forum at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., on Oct. 6. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
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An earlier version of this story said Hogan allies who gathered to discuss his options reviewed internal polling and heard that 50 percent of Republican voters were “gettable.” Those gathered reviewed a survey of polls and found that half of Republican voters were “persuadable.” The story has been corrected.

Gov. Larry Hogan, who is eyeing a run for the White House, is in the nation’s first primary state — again.

Hogan appeared at Politics & Eggs on Thursday morning, a popular stop for presidential hopefuls at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, and was later scheduled to meet with police officers and home builders before stumping for a conservative state senate candidate who rejects covid-19 mandates, opposes transgender rights and who once tweeted questioning the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump.

Hogan’s visits to Massachusetts (he spoke at Harvard and attended an event with Republican Gov. Charlie Baker) and New Hampshire this week, along with a recent gathering of top donors in Annapolis, signal that the Republican governor’s exploration of a presidential bid is intensifying.

“I want to be in position,” Hogan told the audience in Manchester, N.H., when asked if there is a lane for him if Trump runs in 2024. “Is there a lane? That’s part of what we’re trying to find out.”

Hogan, one of the most popular governors in the country, continues to poll well in Maryland. A recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that 73 percent of registered voters approve of the job he is doing. While 74 percent of registered Republicans approve of his performance, only 35 percent said they would support Hogan in a hypothetical race against Trump in 2024. (Trump received 59 percent support).

Where does Larry Hogan go from here?

Hogan said he plans to hold a summit in Annapolis in November, after the midterm elections, with thought leaders from across the country to “talk about the path forward, what we can do to get the country moving in a different direction.”

Hogan’s appearance at Politics & Eggs is his second in the last three years. He spoke there in 2019 when he said that he was seriously considering a primary run against Trump.

On Wednesday night, the governor spent an hour at Harvard’s Institute of Politics fielding questions from students and former Wyoming governor Matt Mead, a fellow Republican, that ranged from his handling of the covid-19 crisis to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol and threats to democracy to his position on the formation of a third party for disaffected Republicans and Democrats.

“It’s very difficult, it’s not worked before and I’m not sure a third party is the right way to go,” said Hogan, who is a proponent of open primaries. “An independent effort that is not far left or far right is possible, but I don’t think outside of the current party system is the right way to go. … We’d be better off trying to fix the broken parties.”

Hogan has been branded a moderate during his two terms as governor in a blue state. But as he makes his way across the country talking about political divisiveness, he also mentions, as he did Wednesday night, that he does not see himself as a moderate but as a “common sense conservative … willing to work across the aisle.”

On Thursday, he was scheduled to raise money for Rich Girard, a former alderman and school board member who is running for state senate in New Hampshire. Girard, who has also been endorsed by Gov. Chris Sununu (R), opposes critical race theory and transgender people using restrooms in accordance with their gender identities. He also tweeted that the 2020 election was stolen.

Hogan has trekked across the country headlining events for Republican gubernatorial and congressional candidates in the last three months. In March, he was in Florida meeting with Cuban and Venezuelan dissidents, and in April he was back in the state attending a conference with the Republican Main Street Partnership.

Earlier this summer, he made a stop at the Iowa State Fair, a crucial campaign stop for presidential hopefuls. He has also gone to New Hampshire to raise money for New Hampshire Republicans running for Congress, to Nebraska to support U.S. Rep. Don Bacon’s reelection bid, and to Oregon to stump for Republican Christine Drazan in a tight race for governor.

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About a week ago, Hogan hosted about 50 supporters and top donors at an Annapolis ballroom to talk about his future and the possibility of a presidential run after he finishes his second and final term as governor in January.

Hogan and others — including David Weinman, who runs An America United, Hogan’s political organization, and Russ Schriefer, a Republican political strategist and media consultant who has worked on presidential campaigns — spoke about a potential lane toward the White House, according to people who attended or were briefed about the event.

The guests were shown research of current polling that found that 30 percent of Republicans were “hard core” Trump supporters, 20 percent disliked the former president and about 50 percent were “persuadable.”

The attendees were given scenarios for a presidential bid, including information about how much money other candidates have historically raised to enter the field. By Nov. 30, when An America United will hold a fundraiser, Hogan hopes to have raised at least $1 million.