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COVID-19 in Maryland Government & Politics

Hogan Keeps Heat on Trump as Book Tour Kicks Off

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday. Screenshot

On the first official day of his book tour, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) accused President Trump and Senate Republicans Tuesday of reneging on a pledge to help states battle a fiscal crisis that has already led to massive layoffs — and he warned that continued failure to reach agreement on a new COVID-19 stimulus plan would lead to “real trouble” soon.

Hogan also continued to tear into the president for his handling of the coronavirus crisis, saying that if the administration had recognized the threat earlier, responded more competently, and “messaged” more consistently, the nation would likely not be seeing a resurgence of cases.

He told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Tuesday evening that he “can’t explain” why Trump spouts falsehoods, touts unproven medications, or pressures states to reopen despite uncontrolled coronavirus outbreaks.

“I’m not sure I’m qualified to opine on what goes through the president’s head,” Hogan said. “I’m not sure there’s a logical explanation for it, quite frankly. And I don’t think it’s helpful.”

In short, Hogan’s day-long string of events — interviews on NPR, CNN (twice), MSNBC and WBAL, and a pre-taped Q&A with the Reagan Library — felt a lot like the last couple weeks.

Despite claims that 2024 is too far off to merit serious discussion, Maryland’s popular second term governor continued to position himself for a post-Trump Republican Party.

While he avoided direct answers to several of the questions he faced, Hogan cast himself — as he does in his book, “Still Standing: Surviving Cancer, Riots, a Global Pandemic, and the Toxic Politics That Divide America” — as an advocate of bipartisan consensus who avoids harsh rhetoric and partisan mudslinging.

“My politics is a little bit different,” Hogan told WBAL Radio. “I’m very direct. I tell it like it is.”

While he offered no predictions about the result of Trump’s race against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Hogan made it clear he thinks the president has undercut his own cause.

“His problem right now is not his hard-core base that are going to vote for him no matter what,” he told CNN. “His problem is he’s not reaching anyone else, and that’s why he’s in trouble politically.”

Whatever the result, Republicans must come up with ways to broaden their appeal — particularly to suburban women and people of color — voters who are turning their back on the GOP now, Hogan said.

“We’re not listening to that advice that [President Ronald] Reagan gave,” he told Reagan Presidential Library Executive Director John Heubusch. “We don’t have that hopeful, positive message and vision that’s attracting more people and growing that bigger tent — and I want to be at least a part of that discussion.”

Hogan didn’t spend his entire day doing interviews.

He also led a call with the White House on behalf of the National Governors Association, which he chairs. He pressed the administration again on the NGA’s request for additional aid to the states — relief he said is desperately needed to offset a steep decline in revenues due to the pandemic.

Hogan accused Trump and Senate Republicans of “backtracking” from a pledge to provide $500 billion in new aid.

“We’ve already lost 1.6 million state and local workers,” he told NPR’s “All Things Considered.” 

“We had a commitment to have that support — and now it appears as if they’re backpedaling,” he added. “But we’re going to try to hold their feet to the fire. We’re trying to make sure that we can find some bipartisan compromise on this because in a couple of weeks we’re going to be in real trouble.”

Hogan said many states will be forced to cope with revenue hits in the 25%-30% range.

“We’re going to be really impacted and have to make very tough fiscal decisions in the state about how do we provide more services to more people who are really in need, with a lot less revenue,” he said during the Reagan Library Q&A.

The governor told WBAL hosts Clarence Mitchell IV and Bryan Nehman that Maryland lawmakers will face a “brutal” budget environment when they return to Annapolis in January, one that makes the spending increases recommended by a high-profile education commission impossible.

“It’s going to be the worst economic crisis that we’ve been through since the Great Depression,” he said. “There’s not going to be any Kirwan [education reform], that’s for sure. We’re going to do our very best to level fund education, [but] many other state programs and agencies are going to see 15%-20% reductions.”

“It’s going to be brutal.”

On WBAL, Hogan acknowledged that big-county school districts are likely to opt for remote learning to start the new school year, but he predicted that many rural districts will hold in-person classes come September.

Despite his longstanding misgivings about Trump (which he has expressed with more vigor in the run-up to Tuesday’s publication of his memoir) Hogan refused to say who he plans to vote for in November.

“I’m not thrilled with the choice on the other side,” he said of former vice president Joe Biden on NPR. “I think a lot of people in America are torn.”

Polls show few voters are undecided heading into the fall election.

Hogan’s book describes his upset win over then-Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) in 2014, his response to the unrest in Baltimore the following year, his successful fight against an aggressive form of cancer and mobilizing to address the COVID crisis.

He also calls out both parties for the nation’s “toxic” political climate.

“It’s reached a fever pitch,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “There’s no question that today it’s worse than it’s ever been. And it’s gotten way off track.”

Hogan refused to identify the Trump cabinet members who, in his telling, urged him to challenge the president in this year’s primary.

And he told hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough that his fight against cancer made him more empathetic to other people’s struggles.

“I try to make the most out of every day,” he said. “And I’m not afraid of taking a tough political stand. Going through cancer and chemotherapy — somebody tweeting or saying something that disagrees with you isn’t all that scary.”

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Hogan Keeps Heat on Trump as Book Tour Kicks Off