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Larry Hogan, former Maryland governor and Trump critic, won’t run for president

He says he doesn’t want ‘to risk being part of another multicar pileup’ of too many candidates that would make it more likely for Trump to become the GOP nominee

Former Maryland governor Larry Hogan has been a fierce critic of former president Donald Trump. (Michael Robinson Chávez/The Washington Post)
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Former Maryland governor Larry Hogan said Sunday that he will not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2024, in a move that avoids a showdown with Donald Trump, the former president from whom Hogan has unsuccessfully sought to steer his party.

In a statement, Hogan said that the party “must move on from Donald Trump” and that “the stakes are too high for me to risk being part of another multicar pileup that could help Mr. Trump recapture the nomination.” In 2016, more than a dozen Republican candidates ran, effectively splitting the vote against Trump, the best-known candidate in the race, who won the nomination with a plurality of the party’s supporters.

Hogan added in his statement that after eight years as governor, “I have no desire to put my family through another grueling campaign just for the experience.”

“I did give it serious consideration,” Hogan said during an appearance Sunday on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.” He called it a “tough decision.”

Hogan’s announcement comes as early indicators show the Republican Party is once again gravitating to Trump, despite influential groups such as the Club for Growth and the Koch network signaling their desire to back a different candidate.

Trump handily won a straw poll of potential 2024 candidates at this past weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference and has led nearly every major poll of Republican declared and likely candidates, and had his access restored to social media platforms Twitter and Facebook, where he amassed more than 120 million combined followers before he was suspended two years ago.

Hogan counted himself out of a field of challengers for the Republican nomination that is small but certain to grow. That field so far includes Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations under Trump and former governor of South Carolina, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. It is also expected to include more popular Republicans such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin; Mike Pompeo, who served as secretary of state under Trump; and Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence.

During Trump’s speech at CPAC in Maryland on Saturday, he cast his third run for president as a continuation of the grievance politics that propelled him into the Oval Office in 2016 and that marked his refusal to acknowledge his loss in 2020.

Trump takes victory lap at conservative conference

Hogan would have been one of the few Republican presidential candidates to pitch themselves as a centrist, technocratic alternative in a field increasingly shaped by Trump’s success as a bomb-throwing cultural warrior. Hogan has criticized GOP politicians for pushing legislation restricting discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms, such as a law DeSantis signed last year. Hogan has also downplayed concerns about critical race theory, which Trump and DeSantis have seized on.

Hogan did not signal whom he would support in the primaries, but he slammed the culture-war grievance politics that others have used to energize the base of the party. “The excesses of progressive elites” created an opportunity for the GOP, Hogan’s statement said. “But many in the Republican Party falsely believe that the best way to reach these voters is through more angry, performative politics and bigger government.”

Larry Hogan won over Democrats in Maryland. Could he do it nationwide?

Hogan’s news was met with a mix of reactions. Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, wrote on Twitter that Hogan would be “a great President” and is the “best in the current field.” However, Olson said that he thought Hogan’s decision was intelligent “given the lack of a plausible path to the nomination and the danger of splitting the center-right.”

Trump on Saturday seemed to acknowledge this dynamic in comments to reporters, NBC News reported. “I really say the more the merrier,” Trump said, before adding, “They’re very ambitious people, but they think they did a good job.”

Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who has publicly praised Trump’s policies, shared on Twitter a New York Times guest essay by Hogan explaining his decision and wrote, “Wise choice.”

Democrats sought to capitalize on Hogan’s announcement to underscore their message that the Republican Party is being dominated by an extremist ideology.

On March 5, politicians, lawmakers, and potential presidential candidates weighed in on a Trump or Biden 2024 nomination. (Video: Michael Cadenhead/The Washington Post)

The Republican primary “will be a race for the MAGA base,” Ammar Moussa, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement. “There is no home in the Republican primary unless you take the most extreme positions on everything,” including abortion, election integrity, and funding programs such as Social Security and Medicare, Moussa added.

Hogan won election to the Maryland governor’s seat in 2014 in one of the country’s biggest upsets that year, but it was his 2015 cancer diagnosis and decision to openly endure his treatment that endeared him to Maryland residents.

“Hogan’s always been pragmatic, and he’s always really understood public opinion and what moves voters, better than a lot of politicians,” said Mileah Kromer, a political science professor at Goucher College who wrote a book about Hogan, “Blue-State Republican.”

“He’s never been one to waste time on a failing endeavor. That’s not who he is,” Kromer said.

Hogan left office in January as one of the most popular governors in Maryland history, a tenure marked by strategically dodging socially divisive issues.

He judiciously avoided public spats with the Democrats who control the rest of state government — saying he reined in his “pugnacious” personality on purpose — and focused his agenda on populist and pocketbook issues such as cutting toll rates and starting the school year after Labor Day.

His national profile ballooned with his public criticism of Trump, particularly in the early days of the pandemic when Hogan embraced shutdowns and other public health measures such as mask-wearing. His role as an unabashed Trump critic within the GOP earned him regular invitations to national news programs, where he sharpened his brand as a Republican eager to put partisanship aside. This year is the second time Hogan has decided against running for president; he flirted with the idea in 2020 as well.

His willingness to call for a Republican Party that moves away from Trumpism never matched up with what primary voters wanted, Kromer said.

“He was sort of counting on, or at least hoping, Trump world would fall apart in order to open up more of a lane for him to run,” she said. “That lane has not really materialized.”

However, other potential candidates still appear to be trying to fill that lane, criticizing Trump’s policies from the right.

Pompeo attacked the former president on “Fox News Sunday” for failing to control spending. “Six trillion dollars more in debt: That’s never the right direction for the country,” Pompeo said.

During a speech Friday at CPAC, Pompeo warned against following “celebrity leaders” with “fragile egos who refuse to accept reality.” Haley also appeared at CPAC and was heckled by pro-Trump attendees.

Hogan had criticized Trump in 2016 and in 2020, adding that he cast a vote for the deceased former president Ronald Reagan rather than voting for Trump. In January 2021, Hogan called for Trump to resign or be ousted following the attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.

“I still believe in a Republican Party that stands for fiscal responsibility and getting the government off our backs and out of our pockets,” Hogan said in his statement Sunday. “… And I still believe in a Republican Party that upholds and honors perhaps our most sacred tradition: the peaceful transfer of power.”

In his guest essay for the New York Times, Hogan seemed to also criticize the infrastructure that enabled Trump’s rise to power.

“For too long, Republican voters have been denied a real debate about what our party stands for beyond loyalty to Mr. Trump. A cult of personality is no substitute for a party of principle,” he wrote.