By Adam Pagnucco.
Governor Larry Hogan loves to discuss his high approval ratings in polls, which have usually been in the range of 60-70%. But a new Washington Post poll that examines his reelection prospects shows that they are well below his approval numbers and provides hope to Maryland Democrats.
The Post poll of March 16-19 has sample sizes of 914 adults and 841 registered voters. The margin of error for those two groups is 4 points, growing to 5.5 points for a half-sample and 6.5 points for the 317 respondents who live in Maryland’s D.C. suburbs. These margins of error must be kept in mind when reading the poll – effectively, only large gaps are meaningful for small sub-groups.
With that significant caveat in mind, let’s examine data on Hogan’s reelection prospects. The Post asked respondents the following question: “Thinking about Maryland’s Governor’s race in 2018… if Larry Hogan ran for re-election as governor, do you think you would vote for him OR for the candidate nominated by the Democratic Party?” Among adults, 39% said they would vote for Hogan and 36% said they would vote for the Democratic nominee, an advantage of 3 points for the Governor. Among registered voters, 41% said they would vote for Hogan and 37% said they would vote for the Democrat, a margin of plus 4. So far, this looks very much like Hogan’s 4-point victory in 2014.
But the sub-group results are more interesting. We compiled the Post’s sub-group data on this question in the presentation below.
Let’s recall the margin of error estimates above. Margins of 10-15 points or less for small sub-groups are probably not very meaningful. That said, many of the Governor’s strengths are predictable. He does well with Republicans, Conservatives, Whites and rural residents. He is weak among Democrats, liberals, African Americans and Prince George’s residents. One item that stands out is his strength with seniors, with whom he has a 17-point advantage. Seniors are among the most reliable voters in any election.
Now let’s compare the geographic results of this poll with how the Governor actually performed in 2014.
The Governor appears stronger in the poll in Baltimore and the Washington suburbs, but weaker elsewhere than in 2014. This could be statistical noise due to large margins of error. But it could also be the result of tax fatigue in some Democratic strongholds, like Montgomery (where voters recently passed term limits by 40 points) and Prince George’s (where the County Executive proposed a 15% increase in property taxes two years ago). It’s hard to believe that the Governor is actually weaker in Anne Arundel and Howard, both of which have Republican Executives who are strongly favored for reelection. (And a random question: what pollster combines Baltimore City and County in one estimate? C’Mon, Man!)
The big takeaway from the poll is this: Larry Hogan will not be coasting to reelection. Maryland is simply not wired that way. It has too many Democrats, African Americans, liberals, immigrants and people who are either employed by or do business with government at some level to give any GOP statewide incumbent a blowout win. From a purely political perspective, the Governor deserves credit for his focused message of tax cuts, job growth and reform (like redistricting) while trying his best to avoid distractions from the right, the left and Washington D.C. His approach gives him a path to victory in a rather blue state. But if the Democrats begin preparing now, play smart and field a good candidate for Governor, Larry Hogan can be defeated.