NEWS & Insights

Larry Hogan’s Big Lead

Former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) has jumped out to a strong lead over both potential Democratic general election opponents according to a new independent research study.

The University of Maryland, partnering with the Washington Post’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement, released a new survey of the Free State Senate race (3/5-12; 1,004 MD registered voters; live interview & text) and it shows former Republican Governor Larry Hogan holding a major advantage in this most Democratic of states. According to the ballot test, Mr. Hogan tops US Rep. David Trone (D-Potomac) 47-39%, while his lead would expand to 50-36% if Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks becomes his general election opponent.

This is the third consecutive poll to show Mr. Hogan posting an edge over Rep. Trone or pulling even. At the beginning of February (1/30-2/1; 600 MD likely general election voters), Ragnar Research Partners posted Hogan to a 49-33% margin over Mr. Trone and an even stronger 52-29% spread over Ms. Alsobrooks.

Two weeks later, Emerson College (2/12-13; 1,000 MD registered voters) published a ballot test finding Mr. Hogan and Rep. Trone tied at 42% apiece. Again, the former Governor’s standing over Ms. Alsobrooks was stronger, at 44-37%.

Mr. Hogan also enjoys an extremely positive 64:23% favorability index, while Rep. Trone scores 33:21% favorable to unfavorable, and Ms. Alsobrooks records a 26:15% ratio.

The Democratic primary should not be considered over. Despite Mr. Trone so far outspending Ms. Alsobrooks by a 12:1 ratio ($24 million to $2 million), he leads the Democratic primary ballot test only 34-27% according to the current UM/Washington Post data. Looking at this most recent ballot test leads one to believe that Rep. Trone is at least slightly underperforming as a statewide candidate considering his lopsided spending amount.

While Ms. Alsobrooks has spent approximately $2 million she still has over $3 million remaining in her campaign account and will obviously have a great deal more before the race is decided in the May 14th statewide primary. Knowing she cannot come close to matching Trone’s spending, the PG County Executive is saving her resources until the closing weeks in order to draw attention to her campaign when it matters most.

The good news for Alsobrooks is that, despite her opponent’s heavy spending and advertising on television for almost a year, she is still within striking distance as the candidates march toward political prime time.

With strength in the African American community both in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, Ms. Alsobrooks, while not having the financial advantage, looks to have the grassroots edge. With help from Gov. Wes Moore and US Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Baltimore) among other local African American leaders, Mr. Alsobrooks has a chance to unify the black communities behind her candidacy, which could be enough to win a Democratic primary in Maryland.

Statewide, the black population accounts for just under 32% of the residents, and they largely reside in the two aforementioned places of Baltimore and Prince George’s County. While only one-third of the total Maryland population, their percentage of the Democratic primary vote is considerably higher.

This is why we see Mr. Trone making strong overtures to the black communities in his ads, especially one featuring House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). Mr. Trone knows that weakening Ms. Alsobrooks even in a minor fashion within her African American base could be enough to provide him at least a thin victory margin.

The Hogan numbers at this point in the campaign are astonishing. Maryland is one of the most reliable Democratic states and yielded President Biden one of his best performances when he recorded 65.2% of the 2020 vote while then-President Trump received less than half of that total at 32.1%. Therefore, the fact that Mr. Hogan is doing so well in these early polls is a testament to his personal popularity, and ability to craft a bipartisan political message necessary to attract Democratic Party voters.

Though Mr. Hogan announcing in February that he is running for the Senate came as a major surprise, he has clearly put a previously untouchable state for Republicans very much in play.

We offer this political insights report for your information and not as a predictor or representative of opinions of HBS or its employees.