• Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan's entry into the US Senate race is a major boost for the GOP.
  • Hogan won statewide twice by appealing to a broad swath of voters, including many Democrats.
  • But winning as a Republican in a presidential year in Maryland will be tough, even for Hogan.

When former Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan announced last week that he was running for the open Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, it came as a surprise to many.

Hogan, a two-term governor who was elected twice in one of the bluest states in the country, had previously expressed little interest in a Senate run and instead flirted with a presidential candidacy.

So on Friday, his entry into the race fueled talk of Hogan potentially doing what no other Maryland Republican has done since 1980: win a contested Senate contest.

But winning a Senate race in a presidential year with an electorate that will lean to the left will be a tall order, even for someone like Hogan. Here's a look at why — despite Hogan's political strengths — Democrats will likely hold an edge in the race:

Hogan gives the GOP a credible candidate

As a moderate Republican who won over scores of independents and Democrats in his two gubernatorial bids in 2014 and 2018, Hogan has proven that he has crossover appeal.

In a state where Democrats like President Joe Biden and Gov. Wes Moore both won with about 65% of the vote, Hogan's ability to reel in voters in key Democratic-leaning suburbs like Baltimore and Howard counties will likely force Democrats to invest more money into the race than they'd prefer.

For Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who worked behind the scenes to get Hogan into the race, that reality is one that has the party excited at their chances.

"To be competitive in a blue state like that is quite a boost for us," the Kentucky Republican told The Hill last week.

Despite facing an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature in Annapolis that had the ability to override many of his vetoes, including ones expanding abortion access, Hogan remained popular through the end of his term. And as one of the most prominent Republican critics of former President Donald Trump, he can also point to his criticism of the ex-president as a sign of independence from the national party.

… but Democrats retain many big advantages

However, Democrats have romped in federal elections in Maryland for decades, aided not only by their party registration edge in the state but also due to a sizable (roughly 32%) Black population that serves as the party's most loyal base of voters.

The state's populous and prosperous suburbs around Washington and Baltimore serve as a bulwark for the party in national elections.

And Republicans have not won a Senate race in Maryland since 1980, when Charles McC. Mathias was re-elected to a third term.

Hogan has also never had to run for a major office in a presidential year, when he will have to work to convince Democrats to split their tickets, especially as Biden is poised to win Maryland again this November against Trump — an unpopular figure in the state.

Also, in the Senate race, Democrats already have two major contenders in Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and Rep. David Trone, among other candidates.

Both contenders have major strengths: Alsobrooks, a former prosecutor, leads the second-most populous county in the state and has touted her pro-choice stance in the face of a conservative push for a national abortion ban. And Trone, a wealthy businessman who has already poured millions of dollars into the race, represents a district that stretches from the Washington suburbs to western Maryland — making him a familiar face to a broad swath of voters.

Whoever emerges from the Democratic primary in May is certain to highlight issues like abortion, voting rights, the retention of the filibuster, and immigration as they seek to distinguish themselves from the GOP. On the issues, voters for decades have sided with Democrats when selecting their US senators.

It's a dilemma that Hogan will have to face head-on as he seeks to win as a Republican in deep-blue Maryland.

Read the original article on Business Insider