Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has pivoted from his anti-abortion stance to say he supports the now-overturned Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion. He said he now favors a woman’s right to choose. Furthermore, he said, if elected to the Senate, he will support efforts to restore Roe as the law of the land.

I read this news with some skepticism, given his 2022 veto of legislation to expand abortion access and his refusal to spend millions of dollars designated for the training of providers. It’s interesting too, that Hogan would wait until after the Republican primary elections to declare to the world the supports reproductive choice.

With Hogan’s flip-flop on being anti-abortion, a cornerstone of the Republican party platform, I wonder if he means what he says or if he is engaging in what he has sold in the past — his own brand of pragmatism — to get elected. I am, of course, referring to how easily Hogan seemed to shed his hard-won “Reagan youth” credentials when he realized how difficult it would be for an arch conservative to get elected in Maryland.

In 1981, Hogan ran in a special election for Congress and made a decent showing. He may not have thought so at the time, but he benefited in the long run by losing. Given the political landscape then in Prince Georges Country, had Hogan won that election, he would have been expected to follow through on his promise to “fully back” President Reagan’s agenda of across-the-board tax cuts, eliminating the recently created U.S. Department of Education and passing an anti-abortion amendment to the Constitution. Building such a political record might have meant that Hogan would never have been elected governor decades later.

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Today, as in 1981, Maryland is a pro-choice state. Had Hogan been elected and had he been given the opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to an anti-abortion agenda by creating a legislative voting record on the subject, Marylanders would have been introduced to the real Larry Hogan years ago.

After running for Congress and losing a second time in 1992, Hogan spent the extra time he had on his hands creating a new version of himself. From the political ashes of Lawrence Hogan Jr. rose the new-and-improved “Larry” Hogan. Larry 2.0 was a performatively more moderate version of its predecessor: He talked a whole lot less about Ronald Reagan and said a whole lot more about the need for bipartisanship and moderation in politics.

Hogan’s latest political flip-flop is huge for a Republican of his stature but not unprecedented. The legendary political gymnastics of another self-professed moderate Republican comes to mind — President George H.W. Bush.

Bush famously abandoned a pledge he made to a room filled with the party faithful during the 1988 Republican presidential convention. Bush said in a stern, defiant voice: “Read my lips: No new taxes.” We all know how that turned out. New taxes were enacted.

After describing himself for years as anti-abortion, Hogan is now promising to help restore Roe v. Wade?

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Really?

Reading Hogan’s statement, one can’t help but hear the same kind of conviction invoked by Bush.

“Let me set the record straight: To the women of Maryland, you have my word that I will continue to protect your right to make your own reproductive choices.”

I wonder about the reaction of female voters who read Hogan’s pledge and who remembered his 2022 veto. It might be, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Or perhaps it will take the form of the sentiment expressed by Bush’s son, President George W. Bush: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice … well, you just can’t fool me twice.”

K. Ward Cummings is a former director of intergovernmental affairs for the Maryland Secretary of State, and the author of Partner to Power: The Secret World of Presidents and their Most Trusted Advisers.
K. Ward Cummings is a former director of intergovernmental affairs for the Office of the Maryland Secretary of State. (Austin Hill)

K. Ward Cummings (kwardcummings@gmail.com) is a former director of intergovernmental affairs for the Office of the Maryland Secretary of State and the author of “Partner to Power: The Secret World of Presidents and their Most Trusted Advisers.”

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