What’s the matter with Maryland Democrats?

Has it been too easy for too many years?  Is it too hard to run against an incumbent Republican Governor who is personally popular?  Is it too difficult to support a political outsider who has stumbled at the start of his campaign?

Or is the real question whether Maryland really isn’t as much of a blue state as people have long asserted.

While lots of other states are talking about a blue wave that is coming in the November Election, Maryland Democrats seem to be in a daze about their prospects this fall.

In Pennsylvania for example, there’s an army of young, first time candidates, many of them women, running to unseat entrenched Republicans in suburban districts outside Philadelphia.  Grass roots organizations are sprouting all over the place.  Democrats are on track to reclaim four or five congressional seats.  The incumbent Democratic Governor and U.S. Senator have double digit leads over their Republican challengers in every poll.

Let me remind you that Donald Trump won Pennsylvania in the 2016 Presidential election.  Rather that sulking or giving up, citizens, many of them new to politics, have become energized in a way not seen in mid-term elections in decades.  Starting with a small group of friends, my wife and I created a PAC and have raised nearly $200,00o to support candidates running for the state legislature.  What’s most significant about that accomplishment is that it is but one of many similar efforts.

Yet, most of the public statements about the Maryland gubernatorial race sound as if Democrats have thrown in the towel.  If you look beyond the superficial assessments of the campaign, there should be sufficient  grounds for working hard to defeat Larry Hogan for reelection rather than the defeatist attitude that so many are exhibiting.

Start with the polls.   Hogan is personally liked by voters, but they are not particularly supportive of the policies he backs.  By contrast, the campaign proposals offered by Democratic candidate Ben Jealous have much higher levels of popular approval.

Hogan has more money and has already gone on TV, but recent elections around the nation demonstrate that having the most money is not always decisive.  Jealous does need to get his message out, including critiquing Hogan’s record.  To do that, Democrats need to step up and give financial support to his campaign rather than acting as if Hogan’s re-election is inevitable.

Right now, Hogan is, somewhat perversely, benefitting from not being as awful as Donald Trump.  What an incredibly low bar.  He has selectively criticized some of this admintration’s actions while remaining silent on many others that have damaged the state that he governs.

Hogan, moreover, sometimes sheds the moderate skin that he has worked so hard to wear during the campaign.  For example, he has stumped in Pennsylvania for Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner, who could well have garnered the endorsement of the Neanderthal Party as well. On the campaign trail recently, Wagner repeated an extremist trope comparing immigrants to raccoons that had invaded someone’s house.  He has consistently undercut efforts to adequately fund public education, has stage managed bills in the Republican-controlled state senate to reduce a woman’s right to make decisions about her personal health and is an avid supporter of the NRA.

And he is Larry Hogan’s pal.  Similarly, in case you missed it, Hogan recently told reporters that one of his closest friends in the Republican Governor’s Association was Mike Pence.  Draw your own conclusions.

While I realize that the Jealous campaign has committed some amateurish mistakes, Hogan is hardly invulnerable.  Moreover,if Democrats don’t get their act together and rally to the support of Jealous, a lot of down ballot candidates will be jeopardized as well.

To take two examples, if Calvin Ball in Howard County and Johnny Olszewski in Baltimore County are to win their races, they will need a strong turnout for the top of the ticket.  Similarly, holding onto enough Democrats seats in the General Assembly to be able to override vetoes if Hogan does get re-elected requires much more energy than Democrats have exhibited so far.

There will always be people who think the challenge is too hard or that the nominee is too far from perfect.  And of course there are a few members of the Opportunist Wing of the Democratic Party who see their future more closely aligned with Hogan’s.  But all of that is really beside the point.

As Jason Waskey pointed out in a recent essay for Maryland Matters, the numbers still favor a Democrat.  The challenge is to put in the work needed to elect Jealous rather than carp on the sidelines or paint Hogan as better than he is.  There’s plenty of time if that time is used effectively.  Democrats in the rest of the country see a huge opportunity this year.  What’s the matter with Maryland?