Could Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Challenge Trump In 2020 Election? The well-liked Republican leading a deep-blue state is an outspoken critic of President Trump and has denounced the "debilitating politics of Washington."
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'Watch What We're Doing': Could Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Challenge Trump In 2020?

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'Watch What We're Doing': Could Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Challenge Trump In 2020?

'Watch What We're Doing': Could Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Challenge Trump In 2020?

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

If you are a Republican governor with sky-high approval ratings in a solidly Democratic state like, say, Maryland, your name gets bandied about at the national level in various ways. And now some in the Republican Party are starting to ask if Maryland's governor, Larry Hogan, should challenge President Trump in the 2020 primary. Patrick Madden of member station WAMU has more.

PATRICK MADDEN, BYLINE: Here's what you need to know about Governor Larry Hogan. He's a Republican, but voters in heavily Democratic Maryland have elected him twice. He's also battled cancer while in office. And unlike most elected Republicans, he feels free to criticize Trump, especially during the recent federal government shutdown.

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LARRY HOGAN: It's crazy. It's like, if I don't get my wall, I'm going to shut down the government.

MADDEN: This was Hogan last month at an airport outside D.C. in which he compared Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to a pair of toddlers.

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HOGAN: It's a bunch of 2 year olds.

MADDEN: It's comments like that that have some Republican insiders in Washington urging Hogan to challenge Trump next year. There's probably no bigger cheerleader of this cause than Jerry Taylor. He runs a libertarian think tank in D.C. called the Niskanen Center.

JERRY TAYLOR: Most people are not particularly ideologically extreme. They want competence. They want a government that cares about them. They don't want corruption, and Governor Hogan has been able to deliver on all these matters.

MADDEN: Taylor even gave the Maryland governor a book about the history of New Hampshire in case - wink, wink, nod, nod - Hogan decides to visit the early primary state. But knocking off an incumbent president in the primaries, even an unpopular president, is extremely difficult.

MELISSA DECKMAN: Trump remains enormously popular with the base of his party, and I think that it would, in some respects, be a fool's errand for just about anyone to challenge Donald Trump at this point.

MADDEN: Melissa Deckman is a political science professor at Washington College in Maryland. The challenge for Hogan, as Deckman explains, is that what makes him so popular as governor is his centrist approach to governing.

DECKMAN: He has said, social issues, for example, are off the table while I'm governor; Maryland voters have spoken about that; I'm going to concentrate on the economy and taxes.

MADDEN: And that approach won't do him any favors with socially conservative primary voters in Iowa or South Carolina. Hogan, for his part, hasn't closed the door on a potential 2020 run. But in a recent interview on CNN, he played down the idea.

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HOGAN: I would only run if I thought that I could actually win.

MADDEN: Hogan says he's flattered by the attention, but right now his focus is on Maryland where he was just sworn in for a second term.

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MADDEN: And yet, during Hogan's second inauguration last month, there were signs that just maybe Hogan has more than Maryland on his mind. He invited Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and Trump critic, to introduce him. And during his speech, Hogan brought up his father, former Maryland Congressman Lawrence Hogan Sr., who famously became the first Republican in Congress to call for President Richard Nixon's impeachment.

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HOGAN: He put aside partisanship and answered the demands of his conscience to do what he thought was the right thing for the nation that he loved.

MADDEN: He added...

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HOGAN: No man - not even the president of the United States - is above the law.

(APPLAUSE)

MADDEN: Hogan's expected to visit the early caucus state of Iowa in March. Four years ago, no one would've expected Maryland's little known governor to one day be talked about as a presidential candidate. But Trump's poor polling and mounting legal troubles may have created space for a Republican challenger. For NPR News, I'm Patrick Madden.

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