Trump muddies Senate race by saying he hopes for a Hogan win

Former President Donald Trump said Thursday that he would like to see his longtime antagonist, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, win his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat this fall.

The support was quickly welcomed – by state Democrats, who are working hard to tie the independent-minded Hogan to the Trump wing of the Republican Party in blue-state Maryland.

“Donald Trump, we all acknowledge, whether you like him or not, he is the Republican Party,”said Connor Lounsbury, a senior advisor to Maryland Democratic Senate nominee Angela Alsobrooks.

“He has decided to wade into this race because while Hogan and Trump might be different, what they share is a common goal of retaking the Senate majority,” Lounsbury said.

While Democrats were trying to tie the two together, however, Hogan’s campaign was quick to insist that a gulf remains between the two Republicans.

“Gov. Hogan has been clear he is not supporting President Trump, just as he didn’t in 2016 and 2020,” said Hogan campaign spokesman, Michael Ricci, in an official statement.

During his time in office, Hogan frequently clashed with Trump, and he considered running against Trump’s reelection bid in 2020, before dropping the idea.

Republican strategists said Trump’s Thursday comments do not change those years of feuding.

“One veiled reference doesn’t negate what? Six years, eight years, of pretty staunch – I wouldn’t say opposition, but you know he has some disdain for him [Trump],” said Paul Ellington, former executive director of the Maryland Republican Party.

When asked by a television reporter Thursday if he would support Hogan’s Senate bid, Trump said he hopes Hogan wins and that Republicans must take majority control of the Senate to “straighten out our country.”

Ellington said he does not think those comments will change the minds of any Trump supporters in Maryland.

“I think the base has their opinions, it doesn’t change anything. Honest to God, I really don’t think so,” Ellington said. “Larry Hogan has been who he has been ever since he entered the campaign for governor.”

During Trump’s first campaign for president, in 2016, Hogan said he would not vote for Trump, and instead wrote in the name of his father – former Rep. Larry Hogan Sr., a Maryland Republican who broke with his party and voted in 1974 to impeach President Richard Nixon. In 2020, Hogan said he wrote in Ronald Reagan’s name on his ballot rather than vote for Trump.

“The governor [Hogan] is well defined on his relationship with President Trump,” said Jim Burton, a longtime Maryland Republican political consultant. “I think the money that the Dems are going to spend, trying to put this ridiculous statement out there, I think voters are going to be like, that’s not the guy I know, I know what he said about Trump.”

“The Dems have been trying to focus on this, ‘He’s not a moderate, he’s a Trump republican,’” Burton said. “They sent out statements, ‘He was endorsed by Trump.’ It wasn’t an endorsement, he didn’t say, ‘I endorse him.’”

But Democrats say Trump’s statement was an endorsement, and that it shows that a vote for Hogan is a vote for Republicans. Alsobrooks has insisted since her primary campaign that the goal of this election is to “keep Democrats in control of the Senate.” 

Trump’s statement of support “crystallizes the argument that the Democrats are going to use against him, which is that a vote for Larry Hogan is a vote for Republican control of the Senate and a vote for the Trump agenda,” said Len Foxwell, a longtime Democratic operative and consultant in Maryland. 

“This was a very cynical effort by Donald Trump to torpedo Larry Hogan’s chances of winning this election,” Foxwell said. “This does nothing to help Larry Hogan in Maryland.”

The Alsobrooks campaign has argued the same, that Trump’s support for Hogan shows how high the stakes are. 

“The stakes are not only as high as they could be, but they’re as clear as they can be. Right? I think last night was just like, put an exclamation point on that,” said Lounsbury, the Alsobrooks adviser.

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