It turns out Monday’s debate between Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and former NAACP president Benjamin T. Jealous (D) won’t be competing for attention with Senate Judiciary Committee hearings featuring Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh after all (though Kavanaugh’s embattled Supreme Court nomination will still be Topic A). That’s good news for Jealous. After a summer of being buried under an avalanche of negative ads from the Republican Governors Association and multiple pro-Hogan ads, he needs all the exposure he can get. But how many people will be tuning in? How much excitement is the gubernatorial race – and the lone debate of the general election – generating? Down 22 points in the latest public poll, the challenges and imperatives for Jealous are obvious: Will he deliver quick and cogent summaries of his top policy proposals – including a credible explanation for how he’ll pay for them? Will he be able to pierce the popular Hogan’s armor, without being too aggressive? Jealous, who is not well known to the public, will have the dual task of having to come off as likable and like a plausible leader. But the debate is not without peril for Hogan. He’s well known and well liked, but Maryland is a Democratic state and the election nationally is looking increasingly bleak for Republicans. Hogan has worked hard to distance himself from President Trump and congressional Republicans and has emphasized some bread-and-butter Democratic issues on the campaign trail. Will Hogan, a pro when it comes to staying on message, try to illuminate voters on his plans for a second term? Will his “let’s not return to the failed policies of the past” mantra be sufficient? Will he remain affable throughout the debate or will he become irritated by reporters’ questions or Jealous’ barbs? Will he be able to push back on Jealous’ proposals without sounding too self-satisfied? Will either candidate get off a memorable zinger? Will they offer soaring rhetoric? Will their best lines sound natural, or overly scripted? The debate, which is being taped at 11 a.m., will be broadcast statewide from 7-8 p.m. on Maryland Public Television; on WBAL-TV and WBAL-AM in Baltimore; on WMDT-TV in Salisbury; WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C and also carried on C-SPAN. The debate also will be streamed at 7 p.m. on MPT.org/debate and will be archived there and on the C-SPAN website. So there will be ample opportunities to view it. What’s more, reporters have been told that they can comment about the debate on social media while it’s being taped – and that they can write stories about the Hogan-Jealous encounter before it airs.
Busy weekend on the trail
In advance of the debate, both campaigns ramped up their activities over the weekend. Jealous held a rally Sunday in Baltimore with more than 50 Democratic elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and five members of the congressional delegation. “”We are the party of the future,” Jealous said. “A party that reflects Maryland as it is and how it aspires to be.” On Friday, Jealous appeared with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), another celebrity endorser, then issued a pledge that if elected, at least 50 percent of his Cabinet members would be women (Hogan’s Cabinet, Jealous said, is 26 percent female). And on Saturday he took a bike tour of Baltimore and appeared with actor Harry Lennix. The Maryland Democratic Party, meanwhile, released results of a public information request for Hogan’s guest list at state-owned boxes at Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium and FedEx Field, which found that they were used on occasion by executives from the governor’s real estate company. Hogan’s campaign launched a TV ad that featured footage of his daughter and new granddaughter and touted his record signing equal pay and contraception legislation. His campaign also rolled out endorsements from the National Federation of Independent Business and four other business trade associations. “Under the Hogan Administration, small business owners in Maryland have seen a significant reduction in taxes and burdensome regulations,” said Tim Goodrich, executive director of NFIB’s state government relations. His campaign also held 26 “Women for Hogan” events around the state, including one headlined by his wife Yumi in Bethesda. And Hogan dropped by a tribute Sunday to retiring Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) – who, pointedly, has yet to endorse Jealous. Hogan’s campaign will have a pre-debate rally Monday morning at Stanford Kitchen, just a few blocks from the Maryland Public Television studios in Owings Mills, where the debate will be taped. Expect both campaigns to declare victory when the debate is over.
Maryland Matters will live-tweet the debate – follow it on @marylandmatters. And be sure to check our website Monday afternoon for a write-up of the debate.