What do these men have in common, besides being Republican governors in overwhelmingly Democratic states? Well, for one, both have said they will not vote for Donald J. Trump.
And sure enough, there is evidence that helps — particularly in a blue state like Maryland, where very few voters support Trump. The Post-UMD poll shows three-quarters (75 percent) of the state approves of Hogan's decision not to support Trump. Even 43 percent of Republicans say it's the right call.
A poll in Ohio this week suggested opposition to Trump is also benefiting the GOP's most popular swing-state governor, Ohio's John Kasich. Kasich, who has withheld his support for Trump since losing the primary to him earlier this year, had a 58-32 approval split in the Monmouth poll, and significantly more voters said his Trump opposition made them think more highly of him (34 percent) than said it made them think less highly of him (20 percent).
Oh, and two other highly popular GOP governors — Tennessee's Bill Haslam and Nevada's Brian Sandoval — have also declined to back Trump. Altogether, these five governors comprise a substantial share of the GOP's most successful chief executives right now.
At the same time, it seems their lack of support for Trump is likely more of a symptom than a cause.
Baker was already highly popular before Trump came along, with a poll early in his tenure in 2015 showing 70 percent approved of him. Ditto Hogan, whose approval-disapproval split in the Post-UMD poll back in November was 61-22. And Kasich's approval rating in Ohio had risen to 62 percent by October 2015. All three were certainly on the right track even before Trump was winning primaries.
But it's certainly part and parcel of their appeal. Baker and Hogan — and even Kasich — have opposed Trump in part because it's in keeping with their political brands and because, in the cases of Baker and Hogan, it just makes logical sense, given the deep-blue electorates they will face in their 2018 reelection bids.
All three have carved moderate-to-pragmatic paths as governor.
Here's how The Post's editorial board summarized Hogan's appeal:
He has had the common sense to oppose his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, and avoid no-win social issues such as abortion and gun control in a liberal state; the humility to pursue a limited agenda, focusing on modest trims to taxes and spending; and the cunning to make — or let — the state’s Democratic grandees look partisan and churlish.
And here's how the Boston Globe summarized Baker's:
“Charlie’s kind of a throwback, the resurrection of a pragmatic, moderate-centrist Republican who can work with Democrats,” says Paul Grogan, president of the Boston Foundation. “We used to have a lot of people like that around the country.”
Kasich has also pursued a more moderate path later in his tenure as governor. After Ohio voters rebuked a Kasich-backed bill limiting the collective bargaining rights of public-sector unions, Kasich accepted his defeat and adjusted his approach. By 2014, he defeated a damaged Democratic opponent, taking a whopping 64 percent of the vote.
Governors have more leeway than senators and House members to chart their own courses, and the deep-blue natures of their states made it a pretty easy call for Hogan and Baker to chart courses that shunned Trump. Similarly, Kasich — who is in his second term — doesn't necessarily have to worry about winning votes again.
Other Republicans (cough, Ted Cruz, cough) may be more concerned about alienating GOP voters in future primary contests, but that's a secondary concern when you're a Republican in Maryland or Massachusetts.
It may not have been a particularly courageous decision for Hogan or Baker — but it certainly didn't hurt their bipartisan brands. And it bears noting, perhaps more than anything, that the most popular governors in America are the most bipartisan ones.
Former Mitt Romney strategist Stuart Stevens said it well: