Mind the Gap

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on March 5, 2023, in Simi Valley, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

“Hero” is too strong a word to describe Larry Hogan (yet unavoidable given the pun potential), but otherwise I share Jeff Blehar’s gratitude toward the former governor for deciding not to run for president.

Which feels strange to say, as Hogan had as much chance of winning a Republican primary as I do. He would have been lucky to pull 3 percent, little more than a receptacle for the GOP’s remaining handful of Liz Cheney fans to park their votes. In the unlikely event that he stuck around long enough for Maryland’s primary, he would have been obliterated on his home turf by Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. Why should we care that a politician with no national future has now formally acknowledged that he has no national future?

We should care because he set a commendable example. “A cult of personality is no substitute for a party of principle,” he said in a statement. “There are several competent Republican leaders who have the potential to step up and lead. But the stakes are too high for me to risk being part of another multicar pileup that could potentially help Mr. Trump recapture the nomination.” By framing the stakes that way, Hogan drew a contrast that Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Chris Christie, and the other no-hopers weighing a run will be forced to address. You can imagine the interviews to come: Larry Hogan placed the common goal of moving past Trump above his own ambition. Why can’t you?

I don’t expect that will deter Pence, et al., from running but I do expect that Hogan’s example will follow them. Raising the prospect of a “multicar pileup” this early and showing a measure of sacrifice to avert it will help keep pressure on the no-hopers to get out before voting begins if their polling remains sluggish. A good rule of thumb for every candidate would be that if they’re not within 10 points of second place on Thanksgiving, they need to snuff it. The devolved, decompensating base of this party should be forced to give Trump a majority of their votes if they intend to nominate him a third time. Having him win again with a plurality in a multicandidate field would grant the GOP a fig leaf of exculpation by allowing them to claim that he might not have prevailed in a one-on-one race. They don’t deserve that.

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