Over at Yahoo News, an anti-DeSantis reporter is apparently trying to manufacture a controversy about the future of the post-Trump GOP.
Yahoo national correspondent Alexander Nazaryan penned a piece on Friday suggesting Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is a Republican leading a state that gave Democrat Joe Biden 65 percent of the vote in November, is somehow a more suitable contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 than Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The pro-Hogan narrative offered by Nazaryan is almost obscene.
Nazaryan, in his lengthy article, notes, “Hogan believes that appealing to the ‘exhausted middle’ with sensible policies gives Republicans the best chance to win back power in Washington.”
He also quotes a Washington Post interview Hogan gave. As Nazaryan wrote, “Hogan described in unstinting terms what, in his view, Trumpism has wrought. ‘In a four-year period, we lost the White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate,’ Hogan noted (though the GOP did make House gains in 2020, after losing that chamber badly in 2018). ‘We lost governors, and we lost legislative bodies. So it’s not a winning message to continue to do the exact same thing and expect different results.’”
Regarding that last comment, let’s add some context that Nazaryan won’t.
Hogan is right that the GOP came up short in federal elections in 2020, although after four years of relentless Trump bashing in the media, the GOP fared better than expected last year.
At the state level, the GOP lost 200 total seats in state legislatures between January 2017 and February 2021, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Yet from January 2009 to January 2017 – in other words with President Barack Obama in the White House – Democrats lost 956 seats.
As for governorships, Republicans led 28 states in January 2009.
Today, they lead 27.
Not quite the blowout Hogan and Nazaryan want people to believe.
As to what Hogan’s “sensible policies” might be, readers are largely left to wonder.
The only hints Nazaryan gives is citing Hogan’s recent testimony before Congress, in which the Marylander pleaded for more big government infrastructure spending, and that he met with Biden before socking his own taxpayers with a new, Democrat-pleasing $1 billion COVID-19 relief effort.
Yet to further make the case for Hogan, and against Florida’s governor, who was a close ally of former President Donald Trump, Nazaryan quotes former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was among the 15 challengers Trump thumped in 2016. Christie later endorsed Trump and was a part-time adviser to the 45th president, but he is also one of the mainstream media’s favorite Republicans when they need a Trump critic from the right.
For more anti-DeSantis commentary, Nazaryan also relies on moderately conservative but anti-Trump journalist Jonah Goldberg and Yuval Levin, whom Nazaryan describes as “a political theorist who has emerged as something of a standard-bearer for anti-Trump conservatives.” He further quotes another anti-Trump “Republican,” activist Charlie Sykes, and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Republican turned Democrat.
DeSantis gets one favorable quote from Lisa Boothe, a Fox News analyst.
Nazaryan seeks to build much of the anti-DeSantis argument on the governor’s supposedly failed leadership on COVID policy.
Nazaryan conveniently skips the fact that on the leading COVID metrics – deaths, infections, hospitalizations – Florida is in the middle of the pack among states, while blissful blue-state havens like New York and New Jersey are among the worst places on earth.
And that’s despite the fact that DeSantis presides over the state with the largest population of people most vulnerable to the coronavirus – senior citizens.
Here’s one example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since the pandemic was first declared in January 2020, Florida’s COVID death rate is 142 per 100,000.
And Florida’s population is 3½ times bigger than Maryland’s and much older – not to mention that Florida is a hub for international tourism.
Meanwhile, Florida’s unemployment rate, according to the most recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is 6.1 percent.
Maryland’s? 6.3 percent.
And that’s despite the fact that Florida relies heavily, if not mostly, on a tourist industry that has been largely shut down for months, while Maryland depends on federal and other government workers and their contractors who have been largely insulated from COVID’s economic blistering.
Here’s one more.
According to the website World Population Review, Florida’s projected population growth in 2021 is 3.3 percent.
Maryland’s? 0.49 percent.
People are voting with their feet amid the pandemic, and it ain’t for Maryland.
In response to Nazaryan’s article, conservative pundit Mary Katherine Ham tweeted, “The U-Haul metric is useful – $800-1K to move from FL to MD. $2500-$3K to go from MD to FL. That is and should be a *large* part of the battle.”
Amusingly, on COVID policy success, Nazaryan trumpets how Hogan and his wife, who is a Korean-American, “got on the phone to purchase tests from South Korea. They later supervised the shipment’s arrival at a Baltimore airport, fearing the federal government might seize the kits.”
About that, The Washington Post reports those tests were “flawed” and “never used.”
In fact, the case against Hogan leading the GOP is far more persuasive than the case for him leading it.
In October, the media gushed that Hogan had a 73 percent approval rating – in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 2 to 1.
Nazaryan fails to explain how such strong support among Democrats will help a pseudo-Republican like Hogan win in places Alabama, Oklahoma, or Wyoming.
The thinking that Republicans can win by appealing to Democrats with Democrat-lite ideas is the fever dream of inside-the-Beltway types like those quoted by Nazaryan, or journalist Bill Kristol and the thoroughly discredited grifters at the Lincoln Project.
A month ago, the Post laid out some of the specifics that Nazaryan avoided.
Hogan, whom the Post billed as “the GOP’s anti-Trump,” was seeking “to reverse the party’s direction and ‘purge’ its extremists.”
The article indicated he was for citizenship for illegal immigrants – even though a recent poll noted in the Tampa Free Press found that GOP voters are most concerned about the effects of illegal immigration- and said abortion should not be a “top priority” for the GOP.
Hogan said he supported Trump’s position on lower taxes and less regulation, but also referred to himself as a “free-trade guy,” without explaining how he would prevent a reduced-tariff China from taking advantage of America.
Hogan also told the Post, “A lot more people are jumping off the sinking ship and trying to get onto the life raft where I’ve been all along.”
The evidence for this was apparently the “erosion” of Trump’s approval ratings, which, the Post noted, dropped from 85 percent in October to a measly 79 percent in late January, three weeks after the riot at the U.S. Capitol and after Trump’s second partisan impeachment.
The folks at the conservative website Twitchy.com noted Nazaryan’s anti-DeSantis history. So, his pro-Hogan sentiment should be taken with huge grains of salt.
But rather than Larry Hogan, conservative pundit Ann Coulter may have identified what will appeal to Republicans outside the Beltway, where the real voters and the real votes really are.
“The Trump agenda without Trump would be a lot easier,” Coulter told a crowd at the University of Oklahoma right after the election.
“Our new motto should be ‘Going on with Trumpism without Trump.’ That’s a winning strategy.”