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COVID-19 in Maryland Government & Politics

Hogan Unleashed: As Trump’s Poll Numbers Crater, Criticism Intensifies

The cover of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s forthcoming book, “Still Standing.” Image via An America United

Few if any prominent Republicans have criticized Donald Trump for as long as Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. But in the last few days, Maryland’s governor has dramatically ratcheted up his condemnation of the president’s policies and conduct.

Analysts say Hogan’s unvarnished takedowns — in interviews and an adapted excerpt from his new book published Thursday in The Washington Post — are the surest sign yet that his upcoming book tour is an attempt to position himself as a leader in a post-Trump Republican Party.

“In the past, he would say things like the president should tweet less, or that the things the president said or did weren’t constructive,” said political science professor Todd Eberly. “But it was not a pointed criticism. It was a soft criticism.”

“What you see in the last 36 hours, in interviews and the op-ed he wrote, the softness is gone. These are full-on jabs.”

The Post essay was adapted from Hogan’s upcoming memoir, “Still Standing: Surviving Riots, Cancer, a Global Pandemic, and the Toxic Politics that Divide America.”

In it, Hogan charges that Trump did not grasp the threat posed by COVID-19, failed to marshal a strong response, spread falsehoods and appeared to focus more on his re-election than the looming pandemic.

“[T]he president downplayed the outbreak’s severity and.. the White House failed to issue public warnings, draw up a 50-state strategy, or dispatch medical gear or lifesaving ventilators from the national stockpile to American hospitals,” the governor wrote.

“Eventually, it was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation’s response was hopeless; if we delayed any longer, we’d be condemning more of our citizens to suffering and death.”

Hogan said he and “most” of the nation’s governors grasped early-on how deadly the pandemic could be because they received briefings from many of the same experts who were working with the White House. Despite those warnings, the governor wrote, Trump “bungled” his response.

“So many nationwide actions could have been taken in those early days but weren’t. While other countries were racing ahead with well-coordinated testing regimes, the Trump administration bungled the effort. The test used by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention early on was fraught with inaccuracies, and onerous regulations hindered the nation’s private labs.”

“The resulting disorganization would delay mass testing for almost two months and leave the nation largely in the dark as the epidemic spread,” Hogan added. “Instead of listening to his own public health experts, the president was talking and tweeting like a man more concerned about boosting the stock market or his reelection planns.

Hogan has denounced Trump on other issues during interviews he has given in advance of his virtual book tour.

During an interview on ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast, Hogan slammed the White House effort to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases.

“I think it’s absolutely outrageous. It’s one of the biggest mistakes, I think, that the administration has made throughout this entire coronavirus response, because Dr. Fauci is, in my opinion, the most respected guy in the administration, and the voice of truth and reason throughout this pandemic,” Hogan said.

The governor also said Trump’s recent comments on race were “completely wrong.”

Asked about the CBS interview in which Trump said “more white people” than Black people die due to police violence, Hogan said, “I think it’s completely wrong. It’s extremely damaging. And it’s the complete opposite of the message that the president ought to be sending out. It’s quite frankly disgraceful.”

At Thursday’s White House briefing, Trump spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany accused Hogan of “revisionist history.”

“It’s really striking, his comments, especially when you compare them to his past comments,” she said. “This is revisionist history from Gov. Hogan and it stands in stark contrast to what he said on March 19, where he praised the ‘great communication’ the president has had with governors. He also said ‘thank you, there’s been tremendous cooperation.’”

McEnany said Hogan’s description of how Maryland was forced to enlist the help of South Korea to get COVID test kits is undercut by his public statements regarding the federal response.

“Twenty-four hours before this dramatic scene in his op-ed, he literally was praising the president of the United States for delivering on testing,” she said.

The Post essay carried an eye-catching headline, “Fighting Alone: I’m a GOP governor. Why didn’t Trump help my state with coronavirus testing.” Because it involved Trump-bashing from a prominent Republican, it immediately became the talk of D.C. and beyond. “Larry Hogan” was a trending term atop on Thursday afternoon and for a time his piece was the most read op-ed.

“Never Trumpers” like conservative commentator Bill Kristol seized on the essay as an encouraging sign that there are GOP leaders offering a different path should the party get shellacked in November.

“Is the GOP more likely to be over the next few years to be the party of Gov. Brian Kemp or Gov. Larry Hogan?” Kristol wrote, a reference to the embattled governor of Georgia, who is under fire for banning local mask ordinances.

Hogan’s book will be published on July 28, with an online event hosted by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute.

Hogan’s political action committee, An America United, has enlisted a long list of bold-faced names to participate in a multi-week virtual book tour that starts the next day. Among them: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, author Nina Easton, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Eberly, who teaches political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said it works out well for Hogan that his book tour coincides with the drop in Trump’s job approval numbers, which are now in the upper 30s, perilous territory for a first-term president seeking re-election.

“College-educated, white suburban voters have been fleeing the [Republican] party,” he said. “When you’re Larry Hogan and you’re criticizing Trump for not taking responsibility for COVID, for sidelining a scientist like Dr. Fauci, and for mishandling and destructive comments on race, that is directly geared toward those college-educated white voters who used to be key for Republicans to win.”

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Hogan Unleashed: As Trump’s Poll Numbers Crater, Criticism Intensifies