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With the battle to succeed him nearing a crucial moment, Maryland’s current chief executive has been traveling throughout New Hampshire, meeting with business leaders and conducting media interviews ahead of a potential White House bid in 2024.
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) hit the road on Sunday, when he flew to Connecticut to speak at a fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Themis Klarides (R). Klarides, who hopes to unseat Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D), has been described as a “moderate voice.” She spent 20 years in the state House of Representatives, including six as leader of the Republican minority.
Hogan also dined with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), a friend with whom he speaks often. Like Hogan, Baker is a popular Republican executive of a reliably Democratic state.
On Monday, Hogan took part in two Boston events organized by No Labels, a Washington, D.C.-based group that describes itself as “a rebellious but constructive third force in American government that is finally poised to break the gridlock and dysfunction that is destroying our democracy.”
By Tuesday, Hogan had made his way to New Hampshire, home of the nation’s first presidential primary. He did a pair of 6 a.m. interviews on local radio, then hit a Dunkin’ Donuts in Manchester for iced coffee and donuts (and a photo for social media).
The rest of the day was a blur of meetings with Realtors and other business groups, interviews with influential news outlets — including the New Hampshire Union Leader and WMUR-TV. He also met with two political power-brokers, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) and a former speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
The day concluded with “Beers with Builders” at the New Hampshire Home Builders Association.
Hogan’s schedule for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday includes more news interviews and meetings, and the National Governor’s Association conference in Portland, Maine.
WAMU (88.5 FM) political analyst Tom Sherwood called Hogan’s New Hampshire itinerary “a presidential campaign schedule.”
“I have seen those schedules and they are grueling. They are detailed. And they are meant to maximize the candidate’s connection with as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time,” said Sherwood, a longtime Washington Post and NBC Washington reporter. “And that is exactly what this schedule does.”
In his interview with the Union Leader, Hogan cast himself as a “common-sense conservative” who cut taxes and eased regulation. He said most voters are “beaten down” by extremist voices in both parties.
University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth, an expert on the presidency and the media, said New England represents the perfect place for Hogan to test-drive themes he might use on the campaign trail two years from now.
“There’s no better place for a moderate Republican to spend their July,” said Farnsworth. “Hogan’s brand of Republicanism will be particularly appealing in the Northeast and it makes a lot of sense for him to spend time there.”
Hogan’s visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state comes as polling suggests that former President Donald Trump’s grip on his party has begun to weaken. A New York Times/Siena College survey released on Tuesday found that more than half of Republicans prefer that someone else be the GOP standard-bearer in the next election.
During his media blitz, Hogan said repeatedly he thinks Trump will ultimately take a pass on the 2024 race. And in a possible swipe at GOP flavor-of-the-moment, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Hogan predicted that Republicans will not retake the White House if they nominate a “cheap imitation.”
On WBAL Radio, Hogan acknowledged that Trump is “the 800-pound gorilla in the Republican Party,” but he said his influence has “diminished dramatically since his peak… and I think it’s going to go down even further.”
The governor told CBS News that he will make a decision about a White House bid after he leaves office in January. “More and more people are encouraging me to consider it,” he added.
Hogan told NBC prior to his trip, “I think there’s a growing demand for exactly what we’ve done in Maryland over the last eight years.”