Guest Commentary: Reading the Tea Leaves

By Jim Burton

Over the last few days, much has been made about the November’s election results and their impact on Maryland’s 2018 elections. Remember, trends are trends until they’re not. Below is a table showing the results of the presidential elections and the results of the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections that followed:

Year           President    VA Gov      NJ Gov                          

1988-1989    Bush (R)      Wilder (D)   Florio (D)

1992-1993    Clinton (D)  Allen (R)      Whitman (R)

1996-1997    Clinton (D)  Gilmore (R) Whitman (R)

2000-2001    Bush (R)      Warner (D)  McGreevey (D)

2004-2005    Bush (R)      Kaine (D)     Corzine (D)

2008-2009    Obama (D)  McDonnell (R)      Christie (R)

2012-2013    Obama (D)  McAuliffe (D)        Christie (R)

2016-2017    Trump (R)   Northam (D) Murphy (D)

Notice a trend?  In all the elections, except for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) victory in 2013, the party that won the White House lost the next year in the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey.

Do these races have any bearing on Maryland’s gubernatorial campaign? Nope, they do not.

George H.W. Bush wins a landslide race in 1988 and Gov. William Donald Schaefer (D) two years later, in a tighter than expected race, is re-elected. Bill Clinton wins in 1992 and Gov. Parris Glendening (D) is narrowly elected in 1994. Clinton easily wins re-election and Glendening is re-elected.

In 2000 George W. Bush wins a squeaker of an election and Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) is elected. Bush is re-elected in 2004 and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) defeats Ehrlich. Barack Obama wins a landslide in 2008 and O’Malley is re-elected. Obama is re-elected, and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) wins a tight race in 2014.

Donald Trump wins in 2016 and what does that mean for Governor Hogan? Only the voters know, and they will make their decision in about a year.

The main point is while Maryland Democrat gubernatorial wannabes believe Governor Hogan should not even run, they are reading way too much into the tea leaves. Governor Hogan has accomplished a great deal for the citizens of Maryland including cutting tolls, closing the Baltimore jail, toughening drunk driving laws, improving the business climate, creating thousands of jobs, improving education, and holding the line on tax increases and state spending. And he is laser-focused on the epidemic of heroin and opioid abuse. Governor Hogan has governed in a bipartisan manner to do what is best for Marylanders, regardless of party affiliation.

Governor Hogan campaigned on reducing taxes, controlling spending, and improving the economy. These issues are top of mind priorities for Marylanders and he has continued to focus on those issues. The latest Goucher Poll shows almost half (47 percent) of voters say the governor is a moderate, while 31 percent see him as conservative and 7 percent say he is a liberal.

His job approval numbers are consistently some of the strongest in the nation – more proof he is focused on doing what is right for Marylanders. Voters in the Free State like him, approve of the job he is doing and see him as being an advocate for their well-being. This is proof he is not governing ideologically, he is doing what Marylanders elected him to do.

A year is a lifetime in politics and anything can happen, but don’t read too much into the election results two weeks ago and what that means for Maryland next year. The voters in Maryland are intelligent and will make their decisions on the issues most important to their lives. While the Democrat leadership and governor wannabes continue to play politics, Governor Hogan is focused on leading Maryland to a brighter and stronger future.

Jim Burton is a Republican pollster and campaign professional with over two decades of campaign and public affairs experience working throughout the country. He began his career in Maryland as executive director for the Maryland Republican Party. 

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