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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says he "definitely is going to be part of the discussion" in helping to shape the Republican Party after President Trump leaves the White House.
The popular two-term governor with an expanding national profile told Fox News in an interview that he’d like to see the GOP "return to its roots" as a "more Reaganesque, bigger tent party" that can appeal to more voters.
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Hogan is one of more than a dozen Republican politicians who are considered potential contenders for the party’s next presidential nomination. But with the president flirting with a 2024 bid to try and return to the White House, much of the field of possible hopefuls may be frozen in place as Trump will continue to dominate the GOP even after his term as president ends.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan leads a state coronavirus briefing, in July 2020 in Annapolis, Maryland.
But Hogan, a vocal Trump critic and a pragmatic politician known to reach across the aisle, is one of the few potential presidential contenders who may not be affected by Trump’s flirtations.
"I believe he is going to stay involved," Hogan said of Trump. "It’s going to throw a monkey wrench into some people’s plans, I guess, for 2024."
In some ways, Hogan would like to lead his party back to the future.
"I’ve been a strong proponent of us returning to a more Reaganesque, bigger tent party where we can appeal to more people and reach out to large swaths of the electorate that have been turned off to the Donald Trump message," he argued.
Pointing to his double-digit gubernatorial re-election victory in 2018 in Maryland, which is one of the bluest states in the nation, Hogan noted that "we won suburban women, we had huge numbers among minorities, among Democrats and independents, some voters who were absolutely opposed to the way the party was heading."
Hogan believes his message will stand out in what could be a crowded field to be the GOP’s next standard bearer.
"I think a more commonsense Republican Party that returns to its roots – I think there’s a market for that. Certainly Trump is going to be staying involved and somebody to contend with but there are going to be 15 or 16 candidates that want to be the next Donald Trump, that are strong supporters of the president, but I think there’s a big chunk of people that would like to see us go in a different direction," he highlighted.
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Amid the coronavirus, the worst pandemic to strike the globe in a century, Hogan is hesitant to talk about any presidential timetable.
"This crisis is a hard time to focus on politics when we’re trying to keep people alive and keep their livelihoods going and safe and employed," he stressed.
"I haven’t made a decision," he said. And he noted that "I’ve got another two years left in my term as governor. There’s plenty of time. I’m certainly getting a lot of people approaching me and asking me to consider it, as some people were actually during the 2020 election."
Hogan did briefly mull a primary challenge against Trump, and stirred speculation in 2019 by headlining Politics and Eggs, a must stop for White House hopefuls in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of New Hampshire.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signs the iconic wooden eggs during an appearance at ‘Politics and Eggs’ at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, in Manchester, N.H., in April 2019.
There’s also some Republicans on Capitol Hill who would love to see Hogan challenge Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland when he’s up for re-election in two years.
Hogan noted that "the Washington Post did a survey a while back that put me head to head with Van Hollen, and I was beating him by 12 points, and that created an awful lot of excitement." But he emphasized that "I haven’t given any thought to running for the Senate."
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Hogan said that in his role as governor, through his new position as co-chair of the centrist organization No Labels, and through the advocacy group An America United, which was founded by Hogan supporters, "I plan to continue to speak out on the things that I think are important for the country and for the Republican Party. We’ll just see what opportunities present themselves. I’m definitely going to be part of the discussion."
The governor said he’s "always believed in being pragmatic and I’m most interested in really just solving problems."
Hogan’s new position with No Labels comes four months after he finished his tenure as chair of the National Governors Association. Hogan headed the group as the pandemic swept the country, putting the nation’s governors smack in the middle of the coronavirus spotlight.
"I didn’t expect that governors would have such an increased and more visible role and that we would be on the front lines, but it was an opportunity to try to bring everybody together," Hogan reflected. "I was impressed on how they did come together and sort of put aside some of the politics and the partisanship and in many cases we got unanimous consent from all the governors as we pushed for certain things at the federal level."
Now, Hogan’s teaming up with former Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a Democrat turned independent, to steer No Labels, which works with both major parties to build a "bipartisan governing coalition capable of solving America's toughest problems."
"I think it’s a great organization whose time has come," Hogan emphasized. "There are an awful lot of people in America who are frustrated that there’s nothing but just divisiveness and disfunction in Washington. They sometimes feel neglected by both parties and forgotten by Washington. If ever there was a time to say let’s come together to fix these things, it’s during the middle of this health crisis and economic crisis."
Hogan says he’s "real encouraged" so far in President-elect Joe Biden’s efforts to reach out to the nation’s governors.
"They’re off to a good start in that they seem willing to engage and at least they’re saying they want to work in a bipartisan way."
"I wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal right after Biden won the election saying that I hoped that he wouldn’t move too far to the left like many people in his party wanted him to, and every indication so far in all the conversations we’ve had and much of what he says publicly, he seems sincere in that he wants to moderate and listen to people on both sides," Hogan observed.
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As for the outgoing Trump administration, Hogan acknowledged that "I was certainly critical when the current administration fell short early on in the pandemic."
But he offered that "I think they’ve done a great job on Operation Warp Speed and they really have improved their response in many ways." He said his "concern is to make sure there’s a smooth hand off because we’re in the middle of this really difficult period of this coronavirus crisis and I don’t want to have any dropped balls with the new guys not being up to speed."
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