Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Sunday that he’s backing Nikki Halley for president in the Iowa caucuses and beyond in the Republican nomination season.

Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and former U.N. ambassador, represents the Republican Party’s best shot of beating President Joe Biden in the general election in November, Hogan told host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” show .

“It’s time for the party to get behind Nikki Haley,” Hogan said.

Hogan predicted that former President Donald J. Trump would win Monday’s Republican caucuses in Iowa, the first step in the nomination process. But he noted that the winners of Iowa don’t typically end up becoming the nominee, and therefore the race for second place is just as important.

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Hogan’s endorsement of Haley comes amid renewed speculation about whether the former governor would run for president himself. Hogan ruled out a run as a Republican last year, but has sometimes indicated an interest in a potential third-party bid, perhaps with the centrist group No Labels.

It was reported last week that Hogan stepped down from a leadership position with No Labels in December, with some seeing that as a potential indication that Hogan was preparing a presidential run.

“It created a whole lot of speculation and I didn’t mean to do that,” Hogan said on CNN. “My position on No Labels has not changed. I’m focused on nominating the strongest possible Republican we can, which is why I’m urging everyone to get behind Nikki Haley.”

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Where No Labels may come into play, Hogan said, is if “we’re stuck with these two bad choices on the November ballot” — meaning Trump as the Republican nominee and Biden as the Democratic nominee.

If that’s the case, then No Labels may decide in March or April whether to field a third-party ticket, Hogan said.

“Seventy percent of the people in America do not want to vote for Joe Biden or Donald Trump,” Hogan said.

Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County. 

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