Greetings from your co-hosts Blake Hounshell and Leah Askarinam. We have an item tonight from our colleague Luke Broadwater, who reports on an effort by Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland to push back against Donald Trump.
Late last year, the leadership of the Republican Governors Association huddled to discuss a vexing question: What should the group do about conservative governors, like Brian Kemp of Georgia, who were facing relentless attacks from Donald Trump?
Gov. Larry Hogan, Republican of Maryland and a member of the committee, spoke out against any suggestion that the organization should side with Trump and pull its support from Kemp, whom the former president blames for not helping him overturn the 2020 election.
“Kemp is a friend who is a strong conservative, who supported Trump,” Hogan said in a recent interview. “He was being attacked simply for not violating the Constitution and lying and overthrowing the election.”
The Republican governors’ group decided unanimously to throw its full support behind Kemp. So far, it has pumped $5 million into supporting the Georgia governor, flooding the state’s televisions with ads that call Kemp a “proven conservative.”
He now carries a large polling lead in the Republican primary race, well ahead of a challenger backed by Trump, former Senator David Perdue.
‘People being unfairly attacked’
Hogan’s push to support Kemp is part of the Maryland governor’s under-the-radar effort to back Republicans around the country who have stood up to Trump — including several in Congress who supported his impeachment after the Capitol riot — and faced his wrath as a result.
When Trump attacks a Republican whom Hogan respects, he will see if there’s a way he can help — and make a potential ally. In addition to serving on the R.G.A. board, Hogan is a chairman of the bipartisan organization No Labels and has his own advocacy group, An America United.
“There are some battles in the primaries that matter, and there are people being unfairly attacked by the former president that I want to try to help and support,” said Hogan, who recently flew to Florida for an event with the Republican Main Street Partnership, which includes more than 60 members of Congress.
Hogan, who rejected a push to persuade him to run for Senate this year but is eyeing a 2024 bid for the White House, also gave a speech on Tuesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in California, where he called for the party to steer away from Trump in 2024 and blamed him for the party’s failures in recent years.
How Donald J. Trump Still Looms
“We won’t win back the White House by nominating Donald Trump or a cheap impersonation of him,” Hogan said during the speech, adding that the Republican Party was “desperately in need of a course correction.”
Support for endangered impeachment backers
Hogan’s effort serves as an important test of what appetite Republicans have for someone willing to vocally stand up to Trump, who remains, overwhelmingly, the most popular and powerful figure in the Republican Party. To date, polling has shown little appetite among the Republican base for a challenge to Trump.
But with his eye on supporting candidates Trump has attacked, Hogan has headlined — or will headline — fund-raisers for lawmakers like Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, who voted to convict Trump on an impeachment charge; Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, Republican of Washington, who voted to impeach Trump; and Kemp, whom Trump has slammed as “very weak.”
Hogan’s advocacy organization has begun running ads for Representative David Valadao, Republican of California, who also voted to impeach Trump after Jan. 6.
Through his position at the Republican Governors Association, Hogan is supporting Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, who won his Republican primary this week after Trump had insulted him as a “terrible, terrible guy,” and Gov. Brad Little of Idaho, after the former president endorsed his challenger.
Hogan is also backing his chosen successor for Maryland governor, Kelly Schulz, against a Trump-endorsed candidate who called former Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” and campaigned at an event promoting QAnon and Sept. 11 conspiracy theories.
In 2020, Hogan participated in ads for Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, a favorite target of Trump, who called Maine’s longest-serving senator “absolutely atrocious” even after she cruised to victory.
‘The worst four-year period for the Republican Party’
Hogan, who is just the second two-term Republican governor in Maryland history, is hoping to rebrand Trump as a loser.
“This was the worst four-year period for the Republican Party since the 1930s,” Hogan said. “It was worse than after Watergate, after Nixon. We lost the White House, the Senate, the House. We lost governors. We lost state legislative bodies. Trump kept saying, ‘We’re going to be winning so much, we’re going to get tired of winning.’ But all we did was lose, and I’m tired of losing.”
Hogan said he would make a decision about 2024 after his second term in office ends this year.
“I wouldn’t be out there making the speech if I didn’t think it was important to be a voice and to say the things that I’m saying,” he said. “I obviously care about my party and the country.”
He added: “There’s still a long way off before ’24. I wouldn’t make any decision about that until next year sometime. I haven’t really decided what the future holds, but I don’t want to give up and I’m not just going to walk away.”
When huge news arrives during a political focus group
The political world took a sudden turn on Monday night, when Politico published a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.
In the middle of one virtual focus group of young voters, the moment rippled in real time.
The focus group of 10 voters, Democratic women and men under the age of 35, had been talking about national politics. They had moved on to the topic of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol when the moderator read aloud the news about the landmark abortion ruling.
In past focus groups, voters had been skeptical Roe would be overturned, and some political strategists in both parties have expressed doubts that the end of the ruling would have a major impact on the midterms or energize notoriously hard-to-reach young voters on behalf of Democrats.
But the clearest signal yet that Roe could indeed fall caused the mood of the room to change.
“The tonal shift was intense,” said Roshni Nedungadi, the chief operating officer of the organization that held the focus group, HIT Strategies, a progressive marketing and data firm focused on young voters of color. After that, it was tough to get the group back on track to discuss Jan. 6.
“The feeling in the room,” Nedungadi said, “was very angry, really upset that something like this could possibly happen — and a feeling of really strong motivation to do something to punish the people responsible for it.”
— Blake & Leah
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