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Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ruled out a presidential bid earlier this week saying he fears a large Republican field could help former President Trump win the nomination. He joins Amna Nawaz to discuss Trump's candidacy and the current Republican field.
Another Republican, former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, ruled out a presidential bid earlier this week.
I spoke with him about his decision a short time ago.
Governor Hogan, welcome back to the "NewsHour." Thanks for being here.
Fmr. Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD):
Thank you for having me.
So you decided not to run specifically over concerns that a crowded primary would once again benefit Donald Trump.
Governor Sununu just said it doesn't really matter how many people get in, you can't control who gets in, as long as they get out early and get out on time. You agree with that?
Fmr. Gov. Larry Hogan:
Well, I don't necessarily disagree with that.
I mean, look, it was one of the many reasons. I really put a lot more thought into it than just that. It was one of the reasons I got out. I want to — I didn't want to have a crowded primary and help — see — have what happened in 2016 happen.
But I don't disagree with Governor Sununu. I think — I think if you're not seriously contending, and if you don't really have a shot to win, then you probably should not get in the race in the first place, if you're just trying to maybe be a Cabinet secretary, or you're auditioning for vice president, or you want to get on television or get a book deal.
But if you really think you can compete and you have a chance to win, then I think everybody ought to make that decision about getting in. But, certainly, if the campaign is not going well, then they ought to get out earlier.
I think the problem in 2016 was people refusing to get out of the race. And it was so divided that Donald Trump was able to capture the nomination.
Governor Sununu also said that he doesn't really believe that Trump could actually be the nominee. He seems to think people are moving forward, and that would be moving backwards. He doesn't think that's going to happen.
You still seem concerned?
Well, I have been, I think, the leading voice for years about moving in a different direction.
And I'm very pleased that more and more people are speaking out, including Governor Sununu and others who are agreeing with me that we need to move in a different direction. I think that we are moving in that direction. But it's a long way from over. I mean, I'm still concerned. It's a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.
And I wouldn't — I wouldn't take him lightly. He's still the 800-pound gorilla. And we have got to work hard to make sure he's not the nominee.
You have called Governor DeSantis, who is expected to also enter the race. You said he's trying to be the younger version of Donald Trump.
Would you back him if he was the nominee?
Well, I don't think he's trying to be the younger version.
He is — I think he is the younger, maybe smarter version of Donald Trump. But he's fishing for the same exact — he's fighting for the same MAGA base, and he's trying to appeal to them. But I have said I wouldn't support Donald Trump. But I'm anxious to see how Governor DeSantis performs, if he gets in the race, and how he does.
And I'm hoping, like, we can get a strong nominee that I can support, but…
You are open to supporting him now?
Because there's a lot of daylight between the two of you on many issues.
Oh, we — I mean, we don't agree on a lot of things. We're completely different in many respects, in tone and style and substance.
But I will — we will just have to see — how the campaign plays out.
But you are open to supporting him?
I just — I need to ask you this, again, because he has many of the same policies and many of the same approaches that Donald Trump has, and you said you would not support him.
Yes, well, I have committed to not supporting Donald Trump. And I'm hoping he's not the nominee. Ron DeSantis would not be my most favorite pick at this point in time.
But we will have to see how that plays out.
I'd love to ask you about what's going on in the Republican Party right now, because you have talked about your concerns over its direction.
There was just a main stage speaker at a major Republican Conference who openly and publicly called for the eradication of transgenderism. How is it that kind of rhetoric has found a home in your party right now?
Well, it's still just a — it's not the mainstream thought in the party. But there are certainly people that are focused on these kinds of issues.
And I think it's — again, we were just talking about playing to the MAGA base that both President Trump and Governor DeSantis are fighting for. But it's not what the average American is thinking about or talking about. It's not what the average Republican is even focused on. They're talking — they're concerned about the economy, about crime, about education.
And, I mean, these are — some of these issues, I think, need to be addressed are parents concerned about teaching very young children about sex in first grade. That's a legitimate issue. But the over-the-top rhetoric and some of the things that we're hearing out there just are not mainstream ideas that are going to have any kind of ability to win crossover votes and win an election.
But the two candidates or candidates — the potential candidates who are leading all the polls at this time, Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis, are not necessarily talking about the economy and those kinds of issues.
Yes, I know.
Why do you think that is?
I think they're all playing to the MAGA base. And DeSantis is trying to beat Trump with the Trump base. And they're not focused on the general election and swing voters.
And I think it's a mistake, because, while it may have a short-term effect in the positive, it's not going to help us win back the White House. And I think we have got to find a more hopeful, positive vision that appeals to a broader group of voters.
And that's what I have done in my state of Maryland, bluest state in the country, where I have been elected and reelected and leaving with strong support among not just Republicans, but independents and Democrats.
When do you think you will see that change?
And I ask because all — it is early, as you say, but all the polls so far show Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump far out ahead of everybody else.
Where do you see that shift happening?
I think the polls a year out mean absolutely nothing.
If you look at 2015, one year out from 2016, Jeb Bush was at 30-some percent, and Donald Trump was less than 1. They were talking about Scott Walker was going to be president, Tim Pawlenty. If you go all the way back, almost every one they have ever said a year out that was going to be the next person has never been the next person.
So I think we have a whole lot of daylight between now and the first primary a year from now. And I think a year is an eternity in politics. So I think polls now are almost meaningless.
Since you announced you're not running and your reasons for not running, have you spoken to any of the other potential candidates?
Yes, I have talked to a number of them and called them ahead of time before the announcement and had some pretty detailed discussions with a few of my friends that may potentially be in the race.
Did you give them any advice of any kind?
I have just told them exactly what my thinking was, and let several of them know that, if I could be of any help in any way as they're weighing their decisions, that I was available.
I'm sure we will be following all of their tracks in the many weeks and months ahead. A long way to go, as you say.
Governor Larry Hogan, always good to have you here. Thank you so much.
Thank you very much.
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Amna Nawaz serves as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour.
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