Gov. Larry Hogan (R) continues to enjoy sky-high approval ratings that any politician would envy.
Yet when he’s matched up against three potential Democratic challengers in a hypothetical general election, Hogan’s numbers are a little more down to earth.
A poll to be released Thursday, conducted by Gonzales Research & Media Services of Arnold, Md., showed that 71 percent of Maryland voters approve of the job Hogan is doing as governor – 41 percent strongly approve while 30 percent somewhat approve. Just 21 percent disapproved of his job performance.
But matched up against the three current leaders in the Democratic race, Hogan posted margins of anywhere from 10 to 14 points. Although those leads are solid, Hogan finished below 50 percent in all cases – and 50 percent is often the barometer that political professionals use to gauge the strength of an incumbent seeking re-election.
In the head-to-head matchups, Hogan led Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker 47 percent to 37 percent. He topped former NAACP president Ben Jealous 49 percent to 36 percent. And he led Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz 48 percent to 34 percent.
The poll of 823 registered voters was taken Dec. 27-Jan. 5. It had a 3.5-point margin of error.
The poll is stuffed with thought-provoking numbers. It also quantifies what many political strategists already knew: That in a blue state, Hogan needs a lot of Democratic votes to be re-elected – about 30 percent of those who vote, according to pollster Patrick Gonzales.
“In an effort to determine the cause behind Hogan’s drop-off between job approval and stated vote, we dug a little deeper into attitudes among Democrats,” Gonzales wrote in a memo accompanying his survey. “Thirty-eight percent of Democrats who ‘strongly’ approve of the job Hogan’s doing as governor either vote for the Democrat or are undecided. Nearly 90% of Democrats who ‘somewhat’ approve of the job Hogan’s doing are not voting for him.
“Part of this results from the match-up question being the first time in the survey Hogan is identified by party…part of it is due to the reality that, in today’s political climate, it is difficult for Republican candidates to get Democrats to vote for them.”
It probably also doesn’t help Hogan that 60 percent of the voters surveyed said they disapproved of the job President Trump is doing; only 36 percent approved. And only a third of voters favored the massive overhaul to the federal tax system that Trump and Republican members of Congress passed last month; 55 percent had an unfavorable view of the tax bill.
Hogan’s job approval rating was at 70 percent or higher for every age group, and was at 75 percent for men compared to just 16 percent who disapproved. From women he had a 67 percent job approval rating, while 24 percent disapproved.
Among white voters, Hogan had a 75 percent job approval rating compared to 17 percent who disapproved. Fifty-nine percent of African-American voters approved of the job he is doing, while 31 percent disapproved.
Hogan had a 70-point spread when it came to job approval and disapproval on the Eastern Shore, in Western Maryland, and perhaps most significantly, in metropolitan Baltimore – Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard and Harford counties.
The gap was lowest in metropolitan Washington – Charles, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties – where 53 percent approved of the job he is doing and 36 percent disapproved. In Baltimore city, the breakdown was 66 percent-30 percent.
Those regional trends also are evident in the head-to-head matchups. Hogan walloped all three Democrats in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore, with margins nearing or surpassing 60 points. In Baltimore city, Baker led Hogan 56 percent to 24 percent, while Kamenetz led Hogan 59 percent to 23 percent and Jealous’ lead was 59 percent to 27 percent.
But the Democrats’ fortunes diverge slightly in metropolitan Washington and metropolitan Baltimore.
In metropolitan Washington, which is Baker’s home turf, he led Hogan 68 percent to 21 percent. Jealous had a 61 percent to 24 percent lead. But Kamenetz’s advantage was only 47 percent to 30 percent.
Yet Kamenetz fared better against Hogan in metropolitan Baltimore than the other two Democrats, trailing the governor 56 percent to 30 percent. Hogan led Baker in the region 60 percent to 22 percent, and he led Jealous 61 percent to 24 percent.
Hogan led the three Democrats by 20 points or more among men, while his lead among women ranged from 9 points (Kamenetz) to 1 point (Baker). Among white voters, Hogan’s margin ranged from 34 points (Jealous) to 28 points (Kamenetz).
The Democrats had significant advantages with African-Americans. Baker led Hogan among black voters 66 percent to 15 percent, Jealous led Hogan 64 percent to 18 percent, and Kamenetz led 48 percent to 22 percent.
Against all three Democrats, Hogan racked up about a quarter of the Democratic vote – close to the 30 percent Gonzales believes Hogan needs, but not quite there.
The poll did not release matchups testing the governor against the other Democratic candidates — state Sen. Richard Madaleno, tech entrepreneur Alec Ross, Baltimore attorney Jim Shea and former Obama administration official Krishanti Vignarajah. All three lagged behind Baker, Kamenetz and Jealous in the Gonzales Democratic primary poll released Wednesday.