Gov. Larry Hogan (R) faces a tough race for re-election even as he remains popular with the voters, according to an independent poll released Wednesday morning.
The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, showed Hogan leading four potential Democratic challengers in head-to-head matchups – in some cases significantly. But in each test he fell short of the 50 percent vote total political professionals often look for to gauge an incumbent’s strength.
Because this is the first public poll of the 2018 election cycle pitting Hogan in hypothetical contests against some of the Democrats hoping to oust him, his margins may be attributable to the fact that he is far-better known than the people running against him.
A substantial number of Democratic voters were undecided when asked their preference for a nominee to take on Hogan next November – as they were in a Goucher College poll released last week. But of the candidates who were named, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker leads the Democratic field by a double-digit margin.
The poll of 625 regular voters was taken Sept. 27-30 and had a 4-point margin of error. The poll of 400 regular Democratic voters had a 5-point error margin.
In key categories, Hogan finds himself on roughly the same solid footing he’s shown in all public polls for the past year or more: Broadly popular.
Sixty-two percent of voters said they view Hogan favorably, compared to just 14 percent who viewed him unfavorably. Nineteen percent were neutral, and 5 percent said they did not know enough about him to express an informed opinion.
Similarly, Hogan’s job approval rate was 61 percent, while 26 percent of voters said they did not approve of the job he is doing and 13 percent were undecided.
Hogan’s approval rating was at 75 percent on the Eastern Shore/Southern Maryland, 69 percent in Western Maryland, 68 percent in Baltimore County, and 66 percent in Central Maryland. But it dropped to 53 percent in Montgomery County, 48 percent in Prince George’s and 45 percent in Baltimore city.
Hogan’s job approval rating was at 83 percent for Republicans, 59 percent for unaffiliated voters, and 49 percent for Democrats.
In head-to-head matchups, Hogan led Baker 46 percent to 39 percent; he topped Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz 48 percent to 35 percent, led former NAACP President Ben Jealous 49 percent to 33 percent, and had a 49 percent to 30 percent advantage over state Sen. Rich Madaleno.
Hogan’s narrow margin over Baker, Mason-Dixon wrote in a polling memo, “is significant for two reasons – 1) Hogan is well below the 50% threshold that is generally considered ‘safe’ for incumbents seeking re-election and 2) Hogan’s seven-point margin pales to the 35% name recognition advantage he currently holds over Baker.”
Hogan similarly has far more statewide name recognition than the other three Democrats tested in a hypothetical general election, Mason-Dixon noted.
“Although about half of Maryland Democrats approve of Hogan’s job performance, the percentage of those who say they will vote for him is only about 25% on average,” the polling firm wrote.
None of the Democrats was especially well known to survey respondents.
Thirty-one percent of Democrats said they did not recognize Baker’s name; 46 percent did not recognize Jealous, 47 percent did not recognize Kamenetz, 59 percent did not recognize Madaleno, and 67 percent did not recognize another Democratic contender, former White House official Krishanti Vignarajah.
When asked their preference in the gubernatorial primary, 28 percent of Democrats named Baker, compared to 11 percent for Kamenetz, 10 percent for Jealous, 3 percent for Madaleno, and 1 percent each for Vignarajah and tech entrepreneur Alec Ross. Jim Shea, the former managing director of the Venable law firm in Baltimore, was named by less than 1 percent of Democratic voters.
Significantly, 46 percent of Democratic voters were undecided in the primary. But that number should diminish in the months ahead as the candidates scramble to become better known.
The Democratic field may not be set, however: Maya Rockeymoore, a policy consultant and wife of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D), is also pondering the race.