Larry Hogan and the Role of Northeast Republicans in 2024
While others are pessimistic, Republican governor of Maryland Larry Hogan is optimistic that the party can move beyond Trump, saying “So, I think the party has a winning message. We just had a bad messenger, and I think we’ve got to move on from the cult of Donald Trump and return to the basic principles that the party has always stood for.”
This all makes sense. Unfortunately, immediately before this, Hogan also said, “Many people who are like, from my wing of the party, who are common sense conservatives that we’re not really Donald, strong Donald Trump supporters. They all won and, you know, people like Susan Collins won. … Phil Scott up in Vermont. We picked up a whole lot of House seats in all the suburban districts.”
For Republicans, it’s nice that they can win elections in the northeast, but why Hogan would cite Collins or Phil Scott as ideal for the party’s future is just bizarre. The most obvious reason to scratch one’s head is that they are both pro-choice. Forget 2024, that alone could not make themselves the face of the party in 1980. That would be like Democrats urging their primary voters to support Dan Lipinski. The only thing worse for Republicans that re-nominating Trump in 2024, would be nominating a pro-choicer who convinces many Republicans to just stay home.
But, the presence of Hogan, Collins, Scott, as well as Charlie Baker in Massachusetts does remind us of something: just like how Democrats who vote for Joe Manchin belong to the same party as those who vote for Ilhan Omar, Republicans who vote for Phil Scott belong to same party as those who vote for Matt Gaetz.
As counterintuitive as it sounds today, in 2016 Trump’s support did not initially come from Evangelical Christians or conservative activists. For cycle after cycle, Republicans tried to compete with each other to see who the biggest tax cutter or budget slasher was. Trump didn’t. Instead, he formed a coalition of strange bedfellows that consisted of single-issue immigration voters, anti-establishment populists, and the moderate/liberal wing of the party, the last of these define northeastern state GOPs.
Trump won many traditionally Republican states, but when he did lose, they much more often than not were solidly red states and it was not uncommon for his victories in dark blue states to be bigger than in dark red ones.
Fans of John McCain and Mitt Romney may want to vomit at the thought of being considered analogues to Trump, but when it comes to their primary campaigns, there is a lot of similarity. All three were not considered to be the Evangelical candidate, those were Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Ted Cruz. Neither were any of them were the candidate of the activist class or ideological true believers. Like Trump, when McCain and Romney did lose, they did so in red states, but cleaned up delegates elsewhere.
Looking ahead to 2024 and the list of potential candidates, it is very possible a similar pattern could emerge. This is not to suggest Hogan will be the nominee, or will even make it past New Hampshire, but those northeastern moderates could upend conventional wisdom about the party.
Let’s just say, for the sake of conversation, that Josh Hawley and his history of Trumpian populism and election challenging and Nikki Haley and her history of neither of those things are the two main front runners and are the base’s and establishment’s favorite candidates respectively. If history is any judge, Haley will be heavily criticized in some corners of conservative media, lose several red states, but will do very well in blue states and given Republicans are more willing to go to winner-take-alls, It is easy to see someone who just called the Trump era a mistake, getting the nomination.
Of course, it’s never that simple. Given the ego that comes with being a presidential candidate, a true one-on-one is unlikely. Similarly, just because you are a Republican who lives in the northeast, does not mean you are a Hogan Republican. But, the average New York Republican is not the average Alabama Republican and New York, in 2016 had nearly double the delegates.
People like Hogan will not be the nominee in 2024, but they certainly will have an influence. If Hogan wants to move the party beyond Trump, instead of pushing pro-choice northeastern moderates, he should identify those potential candidates he deems too Trumpian — Josh Hawley, for example — and declare his support for a more responsible conservative, but who is still a conservative.