Nearly 50 percent of Democrats like the job Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is doing, but only 25 percent, on average, say they would vote for him in matchups with potential Democratic challengers in 2018, according to a poll released Wednesday.
Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, one of seven Democrats vying to challenge the popular Republican next year, appears to be the strongest contender in the Democratic primary and to have the best advantage in a possible matchup against Hogan, Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy found.
Baker trailed Hogan by just seven points in the first poll to look at one-on-one matchups in the 2018 general election. Voters were asked whom they would choose if the election were held today.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz trailed Hogan by 13 points in a head-to-head race; former NAACP president Ben Jealous was down by 16 points; and state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. trailed by 19 points.
"A significant majority of Maryland voters like Republican governor Larry Hogan and have a positive opinion about his performance in office," said J. Brad Coker, the managing director of Mason-Dixon. "However, despite these typically reliable indicators of an incumbent's political strength, Hogan's party affiliation makes his reelection far from certain."
Coker said Hogan, who is trying to become the first Republican governor to win reelection in Maryland in more than 60 years, could be hurt by voters in the heavily Democratic state who strongly oppose the Trump administration.
Even though Hogan has tried to distance himself from President Trump, Coker predicts that Democrats who didn't vote in 2014 will be fired up over Trump and show up to the polls to cast a ballot for candidates from their party.
"It appears the political winds are probably blowing a bit different than they were three years ago," Coker said. "I just don't think [Hogan's] going to get a cakewalk."
The poll found that 61 percent of voters overall approve of the job Hogan is doing. But his support drops to under 50 percent in every matchup in the general election.
Coker said the 50 percent threshold is generally considered the "safe" range for an incumbent seeking reelection.
Forty-six percent of voters surveyed in the poll said they would choose Hogan over Baker, while Baker took 39 percent. The seven-point margin contrasts with the fact that 95 percent of voters recognize Hogan's name but only 60 percent know Baker's.
At 48 percent, Jealous's was the second-most-recognized name among the Democratic challengers. Forty-five percent know who Kamenetz is, followed by 31 percent who are familiar with Madaleno.
Baker topped the Democratic primary field among Democrats who regularly vote in primaries, receiving 28 percent of their vote; next was Kamenetz with 11 percent, then Jealous with 10 percent.
But, with 46 percent of regular Democratic primary voters undecided, the poll concluded that the June 2018 primary remains wide open.
Baker, who is one of two black candidates vying to become the state's first African American governor, received 39 percent of the black vote among likely primary voters, while Jealous, who is also African American, garnered 12 percent of the black vote. Forty-three percent of black Democratic primary voters said they were undecided.
Vignarajah, the only woman in the race, received 2 percent support among women who vote regularly in the Democratic primary. Forty-six percent of female Democratic primary voters were undecided.
The poll, which was conducted Sept. 27 through Sept. 30, consisted of 625 registered Maryland voters. The margin of error is no more than four percentage points.
Mason-Dixon also interviewed an additional 400 registered Democratic voters for the poll. The margin of error for those questions is no more than five percentage points.