Democrats May Have Just Shot Themselves In The Foot — In Must-Win State

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Mary Lou Masters Contributor
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Polling for Maryland’s Senate race largely suggests Larry Hogan, the widely-popular former Republican governor, fares better in a general election against the Democrat who voters chose to be their nominee Tuesday.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks defeated Rep. David Trone by over ten points among a crowded field of Democratic primary hopefuls on Tuesday, after the congressman invested over $61 million of his own money into the race. Some Maryland political operatives who spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation argued that Trone’s loss puts Democrats at a financial disadvantage in the Hogan-Alsobrooks matchup in November.

“It poses a challenge for the Democrat Party nationally, because, you know, David Trone being the self-funder — as precarious as it is with West Virginia, you know, poised to flip — they have to hold serve, and, you know, in a state that heretofore was a given,” Paul Ellington, Republican strategist based in Maryland and former state GOP executive director, told the DCNF. “I think the Democrat Party, although they wouldn’t say at the national level, was hoping that the results would have been a little bit different.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is hoping to keep its slim majority by defending vulnerable Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Jacky Rosen of Nevada, as well as open seats in Michigan and Arizona. The seat currently held by Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is almost certain to flip red with Republican Gov. Jim Justice’s Tuesday nomination, as the senator announced his retirement in November 2023.

Len Foxwell, a Democratic strategist based in Maryland, echoed Ellington’s sentiment, and told the DCNF that Trone, the owner of Total Wine, would’ve been able to “bankroll his own general election operation.” (RELATED: Dems’ Senate ‘Nightmare’ May Have Just Come True)

“While Alsobrooks will obviously have all the money she needs to match Larry Hogan dollar-for-dollar and then some, because control of the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance, [sic] that will come at a cost of money that otherwise could have gone to embattled Democrats in purple or red-leaning states,” Foxwell told the DCNF. “To that extent, it makes the national party’s job a little more difficult.”

Hogan brought in $3 million between Jan. 1 and April 24, while Alsobrooks raised $2.7 million during the same time period, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings. Alsobrooks currently has a slight cash on hand advantage at $1.9 million compared to Hogan’s nearly $1.8 million, but she had been running for roughly nine months longer.

Conversely, Jim Burton, former state GOP executive director and longtime Republican operative in Maryland, believes Democrats are “going to have the resources,” regardless.

“She’s an African American woman from Prince George’s County — she’s going to be the darling of the Democratic Senatorial Committee and the National Democrats, right?,” Burton told the DCNF. “They’re just gonna have the money. To me, the money was never going to be an issue, whether it was David Trone or Angela Alsobrooks.”

Trone had been leading Alsobrooks for a majority of the cycle, but the county executive boasted leads in the final two polls published ahead of primary day, according to FiveThirtyEight’s compilation. In each survey, Hogan either led Alsobrooks by a larger margin than he did against Trone; led the county executive when he lost to Trone; or lost to Alsobrooks by a smaller margin than when he was down against the congressman.

The congressman himself told NBC News’ Julie Tsirkin on May 9 that there’s “no chance in this world” Alsobrooks can win in the general election, adding that “every poll we’ve done, every poll, she has no chance of beating Larry Hogan.”

While Republican state Sen. Justin Ready doesn’t think the race for the former governor got easier with Alsobrooks’ nomination, he told the DCNF that “if anyone can do it, I think Larry Hogan can do it.”

“I think it was always going to be, really, a tough race,” said Ready. “I don’t think it mattered who the Democratic nominee was. This is Maryland, any Republican nominee — and Gov. Hogan, is really more of an independent Republican in a lot of ways in the way that his brand is, and how he governed — but you’re always behind the eight ball.”

The governor was first elected in 2014 by four points, and won reelection by double digits in 2018. Hogan became only the second Republican in Maryland’s history to secure a second term as governor.

Hogan left office with a 77% job approval score, including 81% support from Democrats, 68% from Republicans and 76% from unaffiliated voters, according to a Gonzales Research & Media Services poll released in January 2023. Democrats control the Governor’s Mansion, both chambers of the state Legislature, both Senate seats and all but one of Maryland’s eight House seats.

Due to Hogan’s high popularity statewide, several Maryland political operatives argued Alsobrooks faces a challenge in name recognition.

“They’ve got that double dynamic — introducing your candidate and trying to take down your opponent. That’s always a challenge,” Ellington said of Alsobrooks’ campaign.

Burton told the DCNF that Democrats won’t be able to define Hogan because “voters in Maryland know him.”

“Voters of all stripes, you know, not just for Republicans. There’s lots of Democrats and independents and unaffiliated voters who liked him and voted for him twice, and continue to like him,” Burton said. “Angela Alsobrooks, you know, has got some definition in the Democratic Party, certainly from winning the primary, but there’s an awful lot of unaffiliated voters and a lot more Democrats that don’t know her.”

The former governor’s campaign pointed the DCNF toward its launch of “Democrats for Hogan” upon request for comment, which was announced on Wednesday featuring the coalition’s co-chair, former Democratic state Sen. Bobby Zirkin.

“To my Democratic and Independent friends, you know me and you know my proven track record of reaching across the aisle to find common ground for the common good,” Hogan wrote on X. “You know that I have the courage to put people over politics and to put country over party. I will continue to be the same strong independent leader for Maryland that I always have been.”

Hogan’s campaign also released a Wednesday “State of the Race” memo provided to the DCNF, where strategist Russ Schriefer argued “voters have not yet been introduced to [Alsobrooks’] record.”

“Ms. Alsobrooks is clearly part of the Maryland establishment and would represent the status quo, while Governor Hogan, once again, is the independent outsider ready to roll up his sleeves and get stuff done,” Schriefer wrote.

Tate Mitchell, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), argued that Maryland Democrats “are divided after one of the nastiest primaries in the country” in a statement to the DCNF.

“Meanwhile, Governor Hogan has been crisscrossing the state, working to earn every vote in the same way that led him to two historic victories in Maryland,” said Mitchell. “Marylanders watched Larry Hogan reach across the aisle and put their interests ahead of partisan politics for eight years as governor, and we are confident they’ll send him to the Senate to keep fighting for them.”

Hogan has been critical of former President Donald Trump, and even considered running against him in the Republican primary in 2023. It remains to be seen whether Trump will take a position in the Maryland Senate race, and if Hogan’s stance will harm his chances in the blue state.

While the Republican state operatives believe the Hogan-Alsobrooks matchup is a “toss up,” Foxwell argued the fundamentals of the race still favor Alsobrooks.

“I still think that Alsobrooks has to be considered the favorite going into the general election, given the sheer voter registration advantage that Democrats have over Republicans, and given the fact that Senate races tend to be contested more along partisan lines than do gubernatorial races,” Foxwell told the DCNF.

The Cook Political Report characterizes the open seat, currently held by Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, as “Likely D.”

Neither the Alsobrooks campaign nor the DSCC responded to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

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