Cox’s win could cause ‘real headaches’ in GOP
Analysts: Nominee’s courting of Trump base may be drag on state’s moderates
Dan Cox’s loyalists chanted “USA! USA!” as the Republican gubernatorial nominee claimed victory and began thanking, in order, Jesus Christ, his family and Donald Trump.
Inside the fire and rescue station hall in Frederick County on Tuesday night was a poster of Cox with “Trump endorsed” in block lettering. On the wall to his left was an oversized, red, white and blue banner reading “Trump 2024.”
“President Trump didn’t have to come alongside an outsider, a newcomer, so to speak … but he did,” said Cox, a state delegate who was little known before wrapping himself in Trump’s brand and tapping into the support the 45th president maintains.
“Trump was the deciding factor” in Cox’s decisive win over Kelly Schulz in the primary, said Mileah Kromer, an associate professor of political science and the director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College. Schulz was state commerce secretary under Republican Gov.
Larry Hogan and was the governor’s choice to succeed him.
Maryland Republicans generally agree Trump was a good president, although they differ on whether he can be the party leader of the future, she said.
And while Hogan is also very popular in Maryland, that doesn’t appear to provide coattails for other Republicans, Kromer said.
“People like Larry Hogan, that specific
“People like Larry Hogan, that specific brand, and his brand of Republicanism, but it’s not necessarily transferable to other candidates.”
brand, and his brand of Republicanism, but it’s not necessarily transferable to other candidates,” she said.
Kromer said Schulz is pragmatic, and understood from the start that to win the general election would require appealing to independents and Democrats. “She was unwilling to make that hard right turn for the primary,” Kromer said.
The Democratic Governors Association released a video Wednesday called “MAGAland” that it says exposes Cox’s “extreme agenda by using direct quotes from other top Maryland Republicans.” During the primary, the association paid for an ad — it showcased Cox’s ties to Trump — that the Schulz campaign said cost more than $1 million.
Several analysts said they don’t see how Cox can position himself to win Maryland in November, given his forceful denial of the results of the 2020 election that Trump lost and his chartering of buses to a Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House.
That kind of profile at the top of the ballot will create problems for Republicans farther down if people are repelled by Cox and decide to vote for all the Democrats in other races, Kromer said.
“He has the potential for causing real headaches,” she said.
Candidates such as Barry Glassman, the Harford County executive running for Maryland comptroller, and Allan Kittleman, trying to reclaim the Howard County executive post he lost in 2018, are the kind of moderate Republicans who now could face more uphill paths to November, observers said.
“Moderates like Glassman must navigate a tough terrain of potentially distancing from a base he needs,” said Roger E. Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of
Hartley said Cox’s victory was “extremely remarkable, demonstrating his ability to capture a far-right GOP base that must be considered by future governor hopefuls.”
Glassman said in a text message that he was attending a conference and unavailable for comment.
As for Schulz, “clearly there was not an effective enough effort to mine votes beyond the base votes that turn out.”
Steele said he doesn’t see Cox being able to pivot to becoming a more widely appealing candidate for the general election.
“He’s not going to move to the center,” Steele said. “It’s not in his political DNA.”
Steele said having Cox at the top of the ballot “puts a lot of pressure” on other Republican candidates, such as Glassman and Kittleman, to separate themselves from a candidate without crossover appeal to independents and Democrats.
“They can run the most independent race they can,” Steele said, and not invite Cox to come to their jurisdictions.
In a sense, the distancing is already starting: Hogan on Wednesday said through a spokesman that he would not vote for Cox in November.
— Mileah Kromer, an associate professor of political science and the director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College