The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Larry Hogan devastated Maryland’s GOP — he won’t make No Labels relevant

Campaign trains are leaving the station among potential presidential candidates seeking backing from the No Labels organization. If Larry Hogan gains momentum and looks to run on the No Labels brand, Republicans will thank him for the in-kind contribution. The former Maryland governor, who identifies as a Republican, is seeking media attention and promoting a campaign-style commercial as No Labels prepares for its nominating convention next year. 

While most political analysts believe a No Labels candidate will draw more votes from Joe Biden than Donald Trump, Karl Rove offered a plausible alternative: A conservative No Labels candidate could draw more votes from Trump than Biden.   

Hogan, however, is not that candidate. He contrasts himself with leading Republicans, focusing his attacks on the top contenders for the nomination — Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Hogan said he wouldn’t vote for Trump as the nominee back in 2016. He then characterized Trump’s bid for a second term as a “train wreck” for the country. But the real train wreck today is the Republican Party in Maryland and the derailment of conservative governance in the state following his eight years as governor.  

Hogan’s two terms sealed Maryland’s status as one of the bluest states in the country. Democrats control the congressional delegation, the state legislature, the constitutional offices such as attorney general and nearly all local governments.  

Hogan’s chosen successor, who had served as a Cabinet secretary in his administration, lost in the 2022 primary, where the eventual Republican nominee went on to lose to current Gov. Wes Moore (D) by more than 30 points. Maryland is a Democratic state, but this was the worst drubbing in a Maryland gubernatorial election in nearly 40 years. Also demoralizing for the GOP, the state’s only competitive congressional district elected a political novice Democrat over an accomplished Republican state legislator. Not helping matters, Hogan chose to meddle in the 2022 primary, where his endorsed candidate was crushed by the eventual nominee.  

Although this election record is pleasing to Maryland Democrats, Hogan embodies the worst fears among Democrats nationally. A No Labels presidential ticket would only help Trump in 2024.  Former Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), one of the leading Democrat voices against No Labels, is urging the organization not to proceed with any presidential candidate, due to the likelihood that it will help Trump.  Should Hogan become a No Labels candidate, Democrats will blast the air horn even louder as the former governor has positioned himself in opposition to Republicans, thus siphoning votes from Biden.

Hogan’s anti-Republican talking points are adaptable to current events for example, criticisms of Trump center on the Capitol Hill riot. Towards the end of the 10-minute campaign video, Hogan talks about mobilizing the Maryland National Guard on Jan. 6, a swipe at Trump. 

But it is his criticism of DeSantis that is more revealing of policy differences. Hogan criticizes Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, the governor’s handling of the Disney controversy and COVID policies. One of the starkest contrasts on policy is how Florida’s economy boomed during COVID because DeSantis, unlike Hogan, aggressively challenged lockdown orthodoxy.  

Regardless of policy differences, the most challenging problem a No Labels-backed presidential campaign faces, whether Hogan is at the top of the ticket or someone else, is its pledge not to become a spoiler. Embedded in the DNA of this organization is a bias against Donald Trump that leaves No Labels spinning its wheels to convince voters it is a force in its own right. The organization is essentially a Never Trump movement by another name, proven by statements like the one from founding chairman Joe Lieberman: “Donald Trump should never again be president.”  

This neatly aligns with Hogan’s sentiments about the former president. Realizing they are in a political box, No Labels released what it calls an Insurance Policy, a bland messaging document that preaches bipartisanship. This would offer voters a choice in the event Trump’s legal issues, or those affecting Biden, would preclude either from mounting a viable campaign. 

Equally bland is Hogan’s main talking point asserting that polls are showing an opening for a third party candidate — presumably himself.  Polls and insurance policies may resonate with political insiders, but they fall far short of offering voters a clear rationale for a No Labels ticket. 

Ironically, if Hogan runs for president as the No Labels candidate, he will bumble into restoring the Republican Party nationally quite the opposite of what he did in Maryland. At this point, there is only one track for Hogan as conductor of the No Labels train, and it leads to a collision with Democrats. 

Jim Pettit helped launch Larry Hogans first campaign for governor and served under former Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R).

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden Larry Hogan Larry Hogan maryland no labels