Independent Poll Brings More Good News for Hogan

Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) holds a commanding lead over rival Benjamin T. Jealous (D) in the first independent poll of the general election since the June primary, underscoring the uphill battle Democrats face as they try to unseat the popular GOP incumbent. Hogan was the choice of 52 percent of those surveyed by Gonzales Research. Jealous had the backing of 36 percent. The rest were undecided (11 percent) or backed other candidates (1 percent). Gonzales Research polled 831 likely voters from Aug. 1-8, using “live interviews.” Their respondents were divided between landlines and cell phone users. The poll had a 3.5-point margin of error. “This state has not re-elected a Republican governor in 64 years, since Theodore McKeldin did it back in 1954, and we haven’t re-elected  any  statewide Republican since U.S. Senator Charles ‘Mac’ Mathias won a third term in 1980,” said pollster Patrick Gonzales. The Hogan campaign, like its campaign bus, just keeps on rolling, according to the latest public poll. File photo   “If the Maryland election for governor were held today, GOP incumbent Larry Hogan would be re-elected, becoming a near Halley’s Comet-like phenomenon.” The survey found that 63 percent of voters believe Maryland is heading in the “right direction.” Only 21 percent believe the state to be on the “wrong track.” That 3-1 reading is striking at a time of intense political polarization and voter unrest.  Not surprisingly, President Trump is deeply unpopular in Maryland. Only 36 percent of the Maryland residents surveyed viewed Trump favorably, compared with 58 percent who had an unfavorable view. (His job performance was also under water, at 36-59). But voters do not appear inclined to back Jealous as a way of venting their anger at the occupant of the White House.  “Jealous has gotten no discernible bump from his noteworthy win in June’s primary,” Gonzales said in his polling memo. “We investigated voter views to see if ill will toward Trump might give Jealous’ campaign a spark, and abet his stab at the State House. Trump’s negatives might ultimately help him, but only a tad.” Hogan led in Baltimore County, a key battleground, 63 percent to 27 percent. He was also up big in Anne Arundel County (61-33), Western Maryland (71-21) and on the Eastern Shore (72-24). He was also well ahead among unaffiliated voters (60-29), men (56-32), and whites (62-30).   Theodore McKeldin, the last Republican governor to win two terms in Maryland.  Only in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore City did Jealous out-poll Hogan, and even in those heavily Democratic jurisdictions the numbers were worrisome for the challenger. In Prince George’s, Jealous led Hogan 46 percent to 33 percent, a weak showing in a majority-black jurisdiction where Republican registration is anemic (though Hogan grew up there and his father, Lawrence J. Hogan Sr., was a Republican congressman and county executive). In Baltimore City, where the Jealous family has deep roots, his lead was tiny, 44 percent to 38 percent. In Montgomery County, Jealous led 60 percent to 25 percent. Democrats know they need massive margins in the so-called Big 3 to offset likely losses elsewhere, or the result could be a wipeout.   Jealous’ support levels in the three Democratic strongholds fell short of former Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), who picked up 75 percent of the vote in Baltimore City, 84 percent in Prince George’s and 62 percent in Montgomery County in a losing effort four years ago. Hogan has noticeably upped his official and campaign appearances in Montgomery County in recent weeks. Jealous attracted 55 percent of Democrats in the Gonzales poll, with 29 percent backing Hogan. Despite decades of civil rights work, his advantage among African-Americans was modest, 53 percent to 27 percent. “The former NAACP President will need to work out a way to infuse some pizzazz into his campaign within the next month, in order to give himself at least a modicum of momentum for the fall campaign,” Gonzales wrote in the polling memo. Hogan’s edge over Jealous was almost identical to the poll Gonzales conducted in mid-June, just before the primary. Then, Hogan led Jealous, in a hypothetical matchup, 52 percent to 34 percent. Hogan’s popularity and positive job approval numbers are the foundation for his strong position heading into the fall. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed viewed the governor favorably; 19 percent viewed him unfavorably.   Likewise, 71 percent of voters approved of his performance in office, compared with just 21 percent who disapproved, a remarkable achievement in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2-to-1.   At a recent briefing for political reporters, Jealous strategists expressed confidence that if the campaign can boost turnout to 2010 levels and get the challenger up to 70 percent support from Democrats, the race becomes a toss-up.  But the Gonzales poll suggests that that will be difficult to pull off.   Among Democrats surveyed by Gonzales, 61 percent approved of how Hogan has conducted himself as governor. Only 29 percent disapproved.  He was wildly popular with unaffiliated voters, 74 percent of whom approved of his performance in office, up against 19 percent who disapproved.  ‘The truth is, this is a competitive race’ The Jealous camp’s survey, by the Washington, D.C., firm Garin Hart Yang, had Hogan up 49 percent to 40 percent, with 11 percent undecided. That poll was in the field in mid-July, before Hogan and the Republican Governors Association hit the airwaves with ads — some of them calling Jealous a “socialist” and accusing him of adopting education and health policies that would harm the state’s finances. The Democrat has lacked the funds to respond to the early Republican attacks, and the Democratic Governors Association and other pro-Jealous groups have yet to weigh in. Jealous’ campaign took issue with the new poll, noting that the last Gonzales poll before the Democratic primary showed Jealous trailing Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III by 2 points, though he wound up winning by 9 points. “The truth is this is a competitive race, which is why Republicans have spent more than a million dollars lying about Ben’s record,” said Kevin Harris, a senior Jealous adviser. “We will continue building a robust field operation to mobilize Democrats to the polls around Ben’s vision for fully funding education, providing relief to skyrocketing healthcare and prescription drug costs, and creating good paying jobs for Marylanders.”  Hogan’s popularity and a mini-burst of national interviews — one on C-SPAN, one in The New York Times — has boosted speculation about whether his bipartisan style could work in D.C. after Trump moves off the stage. Each day seems to bring a new round of endorsements from Maryland unions, a development that makes the under-funded Jealous camp’s slog more difficult.  The Hogan team has yet to release any of their polling, but campaign officials took the Gonzales survey as more validation. “This poll emphasizes that under Governor Hogan’s leadership, the overwhelming majority of Marylanders are confident that our state is headed in the right direction,” said campaign spokesman Scott Sloofman.  [email protected]

Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent more than two decades on local television, including 14 years as host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the D.C. metro region. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County, as well as a reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. Bruce also is the host of the weekly The Bruce DePuyt Podcast.

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