Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Sunday that he won’t enter the race for president in 2024, fearing his candidacy might inadvertently boost the odds of former President Donald J. Trump winning the Republican nomination.
“I was struggling, because my heart was telling me to run. My head was telling me no, that this does not make sense for a whole host of reasons,” Hogan said in an interview on “Face the Nation” on CBS Sunday morning. “My gut was flipping back and forth. So it really came down to: If I wasn’t 100% convinced, then I shouldn’t do it.”
Hogan also announced his decision on social media and in an opinion piece published in the New York Times. Through a spokesman, he declined an interview request on Sunday.
Hogan, 66, first flirted with a presidential run for 2020 and then took a much more serious look ahead of the 2024 elections.
As a Republican governor who remained steadily popular in a Democrat-dominated state for eight years, Hogan thought he had something to offer a country that’s riven by intense partisanship.
Hogan has traveled to dozens of states pitching a message that the nation needs to avoid political extremes and embrace bipartisanship. And he’s repeatedly said that former Trump is not the best choice for Republicans.
That message proved to be a tough sell, however, with Republican voters that he’d need to win over in primary elections next year. In early polling, Hogan consistently polled at just 1% to 2% among Republicans, if he even registered at all.
Republicans who have announced presidential campaigns include Trump, Nikki Haley, a former governor of South Carolina and former ambassador to the United Nations and Vivek Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur who founded an investment firm. There’s also a long list of potential and rumored candidates, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
“There are several competent Republican leaders who have the potential to step up and lead,” Hogan wrote in The New York Times. “But the stakes are too high for me to risk being part of another multicar pileup that could potentially help Mr. Trump recapture the nomination.”
In the CBS interview, he explained his thinking further: “Right now you have, you know, Trump and DeSantis at the top of the field, soaking up all of the oxygen, getting all the attention, and then a whole lot of the rest of us in single digits — and the more of them you have, the less chance you have for someone rising up.”
Hogan’s analysis of the political field and his chances is spot-on, said Goucher College political scientist Mileah Kromer, who authored a book about the former governor, “Blue State Republican.”
Too many candidates offering themselves as an alternative to Trump would slice up not only the base of voters, but also the available political donations that are needed to run a viable national campaign, Kromer said. She recalled the 2016 Republican primary field, with so many candidates that they couldn’t all fit on one debate stage.
Hogan could be setting an example for others to opt out of the campaign to facilitate coalescing around one non-Trump candidate.
“If it’s sincere, if Republicans want to move on from Trump, they need to make these hard decisions and put their own personal ambitions aside,” Kromer said.
Hogan is pragmatic and considered the decision carefully, said Amelia Chassé Alcivar, who was the former governor’s chief of staff.
“Today’s decision not to seek the Republican nomination, despite a lot of encouragement from both Marylanders and folks across the country is just another example of him being open and transparent about the factors he was weighing,” said Alcivar, who now is an executive at a redevelopment firm.
Through late 2022 and the end of his second term as governor in January, Hogan said he would make his own decision about running some time in 2023.
Hogan may have foreshadowed his decision in a TV interview two weeks ago, when he said he’d consider not launching a campaign if it might inadvertently help Trump.
On NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Hogan was asked whether he would rethink a run for president if it could end up boosting Trump, who he never supported. The question from host Chuck Todd was based on the theory that too many candidates might split up the anti-Trump vote, handing the nomination to the ex-president.
“That would be a pretty good reason to consider not running, absolutely,” Hogan said. “I mean, I care much more — I don’t care that much about my future in the Republican Party. I care about making sure we have a future for the Republican Party. If we can stop Donald Trump and elect a great Republican, common-sense, conservative leader, then certainly that would be a factor.”
On a New Hampshire radio show last week, Hogan acknowledged that a crowded field could be an advantage for Trump, something he said is “a concern.”
“We just want to come up with the best, strongest candidate,” Hogan said. “But convincing people to step aside is a harder thing than it sounds to do, because everybody thinks they should have a shot.”
A future still in politics?
Hogan’s decision may represent the end of the road for him in elected politics. He’s been promoted as a possible contender for the U.S. Senate representing Maryland, but Hogan has clearly and repeatedly said he has no interest in being a senator.
Hogan has said he wants to remain part of the political conversation going forward.
“I am not about to give up on the Republican Party or on America. None of us can. It’s too important,” Hogan told supporters during a gala in November in Anne Arundel County.
And he closed his New York Times opinion piece by writing: “The work to build a Republican Party that can win and deliver for working people, not just talk loudly about it, has only just begun. Though I will not be a candidate for my party’s nomination for president, I’ve only just begun fighting for our future.”
Keiffer Mitchell, a Baltimore Democrat who was a long-time advisor and staffer to Hogan, said the ex-governor can remain an important voice in returning the Republican Party back to its roots. He expects that Hogan will still get plenty of calls to deliver speeches and appear on the Sunday political talk shows.
“He made a very thoughtful and calculated decision not to run based on reality,” Mitchell said. “He’s a person who’s not looking to do it for vanity. He’s looking to change the direction for the party.”
And maybe this isn’t the end of the road in elected politics for Hogan, Mitchell suggested.
“It may not be his time now, but I’m someone who would not bet against him ... Don’t count him out for 2028,” Mitchell said. “And look for him to be a strong voice in 2024, even though he’s not running.”
Hogan has a federal political action committee that he’s used to support like-minded candidates and raise money for a potential presidential run, including $1.2 million at the November gala. He also has his advocacy group, An America United, which has sponsored his recent travels.
A mixed legacy in Maryland
Hogan counts many successes from his two terms as governor of Maryland, taking credit for improving economic fortunes for the state government — though that’s partly due to general economic trends improving as well as from a windfall of pandemic-related aid from the federal government.
Hogan largely won praise for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with Maryland faring well on the whole. And he fought a public battle with cancer that was successfully treated.
But he had missteps, including a botched purchase of coronavirus test kits from a South Korean company, questionable use of a disappearing message app and the resignation of a chief of staff who’d negotiated a sweetheart exit deal from a state agency to join Hogan’s State House team. Hogan is expected to be a witness later this month at the federal criminal trial of the former chief of staff, Roy McGrath.
There were also persistent questions whether Hogan’s private real estate firm, the Hogan Companies, benefited from his decisions on highway projects. Two ethics complaints were filed, but Hogan never faced sanctions.
And Hogan had a bumpy relationship with Baltimore residents and elected officials, especially surrounding his decision in 2015 to nix a proposed east-west transit line.
For most of his tenure, Hogan avoided the “culture war” issues that have enthralled Republican candidates and elected officials, such as restricting access to abortion, limiting the rights of LGBTQ Americans and preventing educators from offering age-appropriate family and sexual health lessons.
He remained popular throughout his tenure, including a 62% approval rating in a poll conducted last fall by Goucher College in partnership with The Baltimore Banner and WYPR. A poll in January by Gonzales Research & Media Services found Hogan had approval from 77% of respondents.
Hogan likes to cast himself as just a “small businessman” who beat the odds to become a two-term Republican governor.
But he’s been in and out of politics much of his adult life, serving as appointments secretary for Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. from 2003-2007 and running unsuccessfully for Congress in 1981 and 1992. Hogan often mentions that he was an early participant in the “youth for Reagan” movement.
Hogan’s late father, Larry Hogan Sr., was a member of Congress and Prince George’s County executive. The former governor has frequently said he drew inspiration from his father, who was the first Republican on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to support articles of impeachment against then-President Richard M. Nixon.
Hogan retains ownership in the Hogan Companies, the Annapolis-based real estate firm that he ran before becoming governor. He now lives in Davidsonville — close to both Annapolis and Washington — in a mansion he bought in 2021 with his wife, Yumi Hogan.