Perhaps “unfriendly” is a poor word choice. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland have enjoyed sky-high popularity since the very beginning of their tenure. In fact, the two literally top the list of most popular governors in America – Baker number one with a whopping 75 percent approval rating and Hogan nipping at his heels with 73 percent.
The real kicker in this story: the Republican duo represent two of some of the most liberal states in the country. Both men were elected in the GOP wave year of 2014 and are up for re-election next year.
The upcoming mid-terms will be a rough road for Republican governors, as they will have to play defense in the majority of states. Twenty seven of the 38 gubernatorial seats up for grabs in 2017 and 2018 are currently held by the GOP – giving Democrats a high ceiling for growth. It would be assumed Maryland and Massachusetts (two states with overtly high Democratic voter registration advantages) would be top targets. However, it may prove difficult for the Democratic Governors Association to field worthy candidates against such popular figures.
Rep. Joe Kennedy has declined a run against Baker and so has Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey – eliminating two top-tier candidates. Former Secretary of Administration and Finances, Jay Gonzalez, has thrown his hat into the ring, and so has liberal activist Bob Massie. Newton Mayor Setti Warren is seriously considering a bid.
Donald Trump is deeply unpopular in the state. Gov. Baker had to publicly rebuke the then-presidential candidate during the 2016 campaign to create distance between the two. Despite this, Trump’s poor image will certainly be a factor leading into this election. Baker will be sharing a ballot with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a very popular Democrat in the state who is also running for re-election. Her own get-out-the-vote operation could prove to be a problem as she galvanizes liberal voters.
The environment could be ripe for a Baker defeat, but if no serious Democrat steps up to the challenge – it won’t matter.
A lot of the same can be said for Gov. Larry Hogan. He has also distanced himself from President Trump and governed his state moderately while working with a Democrat-controlled state legislature. Hogan won over the hearts of many Marylanders during his public battle (and eventual victory) with cancer – everyone loves a heartwarming tale.
Given Hogan’s amazing popularity and a campaign war chest of over $5 million, not many Democrats have jumped at the opportunity for a challenge. State Delegate Maggie McIntosh and a few other big names have declined to run. The only official candidate so far is former State Department official Alec Ross – an accomplished individual, but a relative unknown in Maryland. It is also looking very likely that Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker will announce his candidacy in the coming days.
Both Charlie Baker and Larry Hogan shocked the country when they came out victorious in the aftermath of the 2014 elections… but a lot can happen in four years.
These two could win again and perhaps not a single spectator would be surprised.
Campaign Daily Rating (Massachusetts): Likely Republican
Campaign Daily Rating (Maryland): Likely Republican