Flip? Says Who?

National experts look like they're going to get Maryland wrong again

Back in 2014, national pundits left Maryland as a “safe Democratic seat.” Some of us knew better, and accurately predicted one year before the election that Larry Hogan would be elected Governor. Some called it the biggest upset in America. We saw it coming.

In 2018, it was the same story. National pundits assumed Larry Hogan was in for a tough re-elect, despite his overwhelming popularity. The nomination of Ben Jealous quickly dispelled them of that notion, and the Governor cruised to an easy re-election victory.

You won’t be surprised that national pundits are back at it and promoting doom for Republicans in the 2022 gubernatorial election.

Louis Jacobson writing in US News and World Report says that Maryland is the most likely state to flip gubernatorial control in 2022:

The most vulnerable governorship on our list is the open seat in deep blue Maryland that is being vacated by moderate Republican Larry Hogan. Despite his Republican affiliation, Hogan has been popular in the state. But he may be the only Republican who can win statewide. Democrats are all but salivating at the prospect of winning back the governor’s mansion in 2022.

To an untrained eye, this makes a lot of sense. Voter registration numbers have always trended Democratic, exacerbated by an exodus of Republicans to independent status after January 6th. But the idea that Hogan “may be the only Republican who can win statewide” ignores the fact that Bob Ehrlich defeated Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002 and the part where Republicans have won a majority of gubernatorial races in the 21st century.

The next comments are where things start to go off the rails:

For now, the top tier of declared candidates in the Democratic field appears to be Wes Moore, a veteran and former nonprofit executive; Rushern Baker, the former Prince George's County executive who lost the 2018 gubernatorial primary; state Comptroller Peter Franchot; and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. Of these, Moore, despite his lack of electoral experience, has made the deepest inroads in securing establishment support.

Moore having the establishment support is a curious claim, and one that has shown itself to be irrelevant in the past (more on that in a minute). But even more curious is Moore being labeled as a top-tier candidate at the moment. He just entered the race and the one poll we have seen so far shows Moore in fifth place, far behind the leaders. What we are seeing, so far, is national pundits more familiar with Moore forecasting their familiarity with him into statewide organization and success. This has not worked in the past and usually ends up with candidates getting their funding from outside of Maryland. And Moore’s attempted nationalization of the election has already blown up in his face.

More from Jacobsen:

Democratic insiders suggest that 2022 could be the year that a Black Democrat wins Maryland’s governorship. Moore, Baker and King are Black.

With due respect to “Democratic insiders”, they have also made this claim in 2014 and 2018. During those years, Democrats have picked weak candidates who ran weak campaigns. There’s no reason to think Democrats have righted the ship.

This, however, may be the most out of touch piece of Jacobsen’s entire write-up:

Another cross-cutting factor shaping the primary is that moderates have more energy in Maryland’s Democratic Party than they do in other state parties, so many of the candidates may try to position themselves closer to the center than the left.

That may be true for Presidential races, where Bernie Sanders has never won a primary. But for this to be accurate, you have to completely ignore the entirety of the last two gubernatorial campaigns. The 2018 Democratic primary was campaign where candidates tried to run to the left a breakneck speed in order to appease the rabid, left-wing election. “Moderate” (a relatively term in the modern Maryland Democratic Party) won fewer than 40% of the primary votes. The campaign was easily won by socialist Ben Jealous, whose campaign quickly imploded before Labor Day.

Any party that nominates a candidate who wanted to turn Maryland into Cuba on the Chesapeake can be considered a party where “moderates have more energy” than other parties.

It’s easy for national pundits to make broad generalization about elections. They see the 30,000 foot view. They don’t know the players, don’t know the situation, and don’t know the history on which they write. Plus, as I wrote in my most recent column in The Capital:

All of this is shaping up to make 2022 look a lot like 2018, and the political winds will not be drifting in the Democrats direction. Voters have been happy with Governor Larry Hogan’s leadership and, at present, look very likely to want to continue in that track.

If national pundits want to continue to write off Kelly Schulz’s chances in Maryland, let them. People here on the ground know better.