How Hogan did it

The short version: he stormed Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties, winning massive majorities there, while sweeping the traditionally Republican rural areas (Harford and the Eastern Shore, Western & Southern Maryland) and doing well enough in Frederick, Carroll, and Howard Counties (winning all three) so as to offset the massive Democratic majorities in Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. Click here to see the county by county breakdown.

But Republican candidates aren’t supposed to win the shield of suburban counties around Baltimore. Martin O’Malley won Baltimore and Howard Counties easily in 2010. Hogan came up with 150,000 more votes than Robert Ehrlich recieved four years ago. Most of them had to come from previous O’Malley voters, as evidenced by the fact that Anthony Brown ended up with 10,000 fewer votes last night than Ehrlich got.

So how did Hogan get them?

  1. He kept it simple. Hogan was relentless on the things that had Marylanders unhappy: taxes, the economy, the lousy turnout of Maryland’s ACA-system, and Anthony Brown’s connection to all of them. He didn’t get drawn into the weeds on social issues in a deep-blue state; despite the temptation to challenge the Dems on gun control, Hogan stayed on message. Thus, Brown’s hysterical attempts to paint him as a right-wing extremist failed to gain any real traction.
  2. He presented a positive image. No one can say that Hogan didn’t “go negative”. Criticizing the other guy is part of politics. But Hogan also understood that he needed to give disgruntled Marylanders a reason to vote for him. He did this at the debates; presenting himself as a serious, thoughtful man who got what was bugging voters about their current government, and had proposals in place to deal with them. When Brown tried to paint him as a wingnut, Hogan just kept emphasizing his business credentials and plans.
  3. Anthony Brown failed to connect. On paper, Anthony Brown is a formidable candidate: son of immigrants, harvard degree, former Army colonel. But unlike Hogan, he didn’t seem able to present a vision of what he wanted to do. A Lieutenant Governor or Vice President running for the top job has a delicate balancing act: giving equal deference to the administration you’re currently serving and the one you want to create. If the former is not as popular as it could be, that balance is even harder to strike. Brown couldn’t give a substantive response to Hogan’s critique of the O’Malley administration, and at times seemed to act as if he didn’t need to. That cost him.

So what comes next? My guess is that Hogan will govern as he campaigned: with an eye for fiscal restraint, bureaucratic reform, and improving Maryland’s business climate. If he pulls it off, a Republican winning the state house by way of Baltimore and Howard Counties may one day fail to surprise.

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