Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has always relied on polling to help him make political decisions, and his entry into the U.S. Senate race is no different.

A poll commissioned by national Republicans indicates that Hogan is starting his run for Senate in a strong position, with double-digit leads over each of the Democratic contenders, U.S. Rep. David Trone and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.

Hogan was ahead of Trone, 49% to 33%, and ahead of Alsobrooks, 52% to 29%, in the poll from Ragnar Research Partners, who has previously worked for Hogan Republicans across the country. Both scenarios had a high portion of undecided voters, at least 18%.

“The race is going to get tighter,” said Russ Schriefer, a political consultant and longtime Hogan adviser. “A Republican is not going to win in Maryland in a landslide. It’s going to be a tough uphill fight. Is there a chance to win? Is there an opportunity to win? Is there a path to win? Absolutely.”

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Schriefer, who worked with Hogan on his two successful runs for governor in 2014 and 2018, said the poll was one factor in Hogan’s decision to run.

“He wanted to make sure there was a path to win,” Schriefer said, but he noted that Hogan also has a drive this time to make a difference in Washington.

“I really do think he believes that there’s more work to be done,” he said.

Hogan’s team has not yet made the former governor available for an interview with The Baltimore Banner.

The Ragnar poll questioned 600 likely Maryland voters from Jan. 30 through Feb. 1 — a little more than one week before Hogan made his surprise entry into the U.S. Senate race. The poll was commissioned by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the Senate.

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“This poll shows exactly why Democrats are panicking about Maryland,” NRSC spokesman Tate Mitchell said in a statement. “Marylanders know Larry Hogan as an incredibly popular former governor with a strong, independent brand and record of results. Without question, Governor Hogan is in a unique position to deliver a historic victory in Maryland just as he has before.”

Ragnar’s pollsters concluded that Hogan would start his campaign “in a strong position.”

In addition to the head-to-head advantage over either potential Democratic nominee, the poll also found Hogan has a 93% name recognition and 64% favorability rating among those polled.

But the pollsters also noted that Hogan faces challenges: Democrats will likely spend heavily “attacking Governor Hogan”; Trone has plenty of his own money to spend if he’s the nominee; and Maryland is “arguably the bluest state in America” where former President Donald Trump is deeply unpopular.

If Trump is the Republican nominee for president, as expected, Trump and Hogan would appear on the same ballot for the first time, which could be a potential drag on Hogan. Governors, even popular ones, have also struggled to win Senate seats in states where the opposing party has the advantage: Republicans Linda Lingle of Hawaii and Jim Gilmore of Virginia and Democrat Steve Bullock of Montana are all examples.

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Democrats are likely to remind voters of Hogan’s often-testy relationship with the Democratic-led state legislature. And national issues, such as abortion and judges, become relevant, powerful motivators.

The Ragnar poll offers a brighter picture for Hogan than one done after he entered the race. A poll from Emerson College, The Hill and DCNewsNow put Hogan over Alsobrooks, 44%-37%, and showed him tied with Trone at 42%. That poll was conducted of 1,000 Maryland registered voters on Feb. 12-13 — when Hogan’s candidacy was official and no longer hypothetical.

Hogan won his two elections for governor by building a coalition across the political spectrum. In addition to winning votes from Republicans, he got a large enough portion of independent voters and crossover Democrats to defeat his Democratic opponents.

That type of coalition building is key for Republicans in Maryland, where the electorate is roughly 54% Democrats, 24% Republicans and 22% who are unaffiliated or belong to third parties.

The Ragnar poll asked voters to define themselves politically, as well as Hogan. Half of respondents said they consider themselves “moderate,” and 47% defined Hogan with that same label.

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Schriefer said he believes Hogan has a winning message that he’ll work across the aisle, rather than engage in partisan attacks common on Capitol Hill. And that, he said, will persuade undecided and independent voters.

“No one is expecting this to be an easy race,” he said. “This is going to be a very hard, tough race, but it is one where the governor has a real opportunity to win because his message really resonates with voters, particularly in this time in our politics. The right message, the right candidate, the right time.”