Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Democrats Get Bad News and Good News on the Senate

Unfortunately for the Democrats, the bad news is fairly bad while the good news is only moderately good. First the bad. On Friday, former Maryland governor Larry Hogan (R) announced that he is running for the seat of retiring Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). Maryland is an extremely blue state, but Hogan has twice won statewide election in Maryland and is far better known than either of the serious Democrats running for the seat, Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and Rep. David Trone (D-MD). Alsobrooks would make history as the state's first Black senator. Trone can shovel tens of millions of dollars of his own money into the race if he wants to. Neither of them has run statewide before.

Previously, Hogan (67), said he wasn't interested in running for the Senate. What changed his mind? In two words: Mitch McConnell. McConnell has been lobbying Hogan hard to get him to jump in. Even if Hogan doesn't win, his entry may force the Democrats to spend a large amount of money in a deep blue state if Alsobrooks wins the primary, money they would prefer spending in Arizona, Montana, Nevada, Ohio or Wisconsin. Hogan knows very well that it takes 20 years to achieve real power in the Senate, so he isn't doing this because he wants to become known as one of the all-time greatest senators. He is taking one for the team.

Hogan's entrance in the race makes life much more complicated for either Alsobrooks or Trone, but it is far from hopeless, just potentially a lot more expensive. Going for Hogan is that he was a popular two-term governor who worked well with the Democratic-controlled state legislature. He is widely viewed as a moderate and is universally known and respected in the state.

That said, Maryland's PVI is D+14. Joe Biden swept Maryland by 33 points in 2020. The last Republican elected to the Senate from Maryland was Charles Mathias in 1980, over 40 years ago, and he did it by clutching the coattails of Ronald Reagan, who swept into office in a landslide. There are plenty of examples of popular governors of the "wrong" party trying to fight the state's PVI and losing. For example, in 2020, popular two-term Democratic governor Steve Bullock ran for the Senate in deep red Montana. The R+11 PVI was simply too steep a hill to climb and he lost. Maryland is worse at D+14. The Cook Political Report has downgraded the race from "Safe Democrat" to "Likely Democrat." That means they still think the Democrat will win. The main question is whether they get the Black woman, which could excite the base, or the rich white guy, which means the race wouldn't cost the DSCC any money since Trone can self-fund. While the base is rooting for Alsobrooks, DSCC chairman Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) is probably secretly rooting for Trone since then he can save his pennies and spend them in Arizona, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Now the good news for the Democrats. Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) is now officially running for the GOP nomination to challenge Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) in November. If he gets the nomination, this is very good news for Tester because Tester knows he can beat Rosendale. He did it in 2018 and there is no reason to think that in a presidential year Tester will do worse. Rosendale is a super-MAGA candidate and if he gets the nomination, McConnell will be tearing out his hair in clumps while muttering "candidate quality, candidate quality."

The reason this is not as good news for the Democrats as Hogan's announcement is for the Republicans is that Hogan is almost certainly the GOP nominee in Maryland, even though half a dozen or so other Republicans have filed to run. None of them have the star power to beat a popular former two-term governor. Hogan will win the primary in a landslide. In contrast, Rosendale has to beat Tim Sheehy, a former Navy SEAL and wealthy businessman who owns an aerial firefighting company. The entire Republican establishment is backing Sheehy due to that "candidate quality" thingie. Sheehy will have money and institutional support galore. While Sheehy's lack of MAGAosity may hurt in the primary, it will help if he makes it to the general election.

A big factor favoring Sheehy is Donald Trump's endorsement of him. Trump apparently would rather win the Senate seat than go with the Trumpiest candidate. This is uncharacteristic of him. He knows what happened in 2022. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks. Who knew? Still, Rosendale is going to put up a big fight and make a big deal about being a 10.0 on the Richter Scale for Trumpiness, forcing Sheehy to say things that: (1) he doesn't believe and (2) might hurt him in the general election.

The GOP establishment understands this, of course, and may give Sheehy a short course on "How to MAGAtize yourself." During the primary, he will gush over Trump. The day after winning, he will turn off the faucet and start talking about the border. After all, Montana has a 500-mile long border with a foreign country. One other factor that can't be discounted is carpetbaggery. The Tester family has been farming in Montana for over 100 years and Jon owns a farm in the state. Sheehy lived in Minnesota until he moved to Annapolis, MD, to join the Naval Academy. Rosendale was born and raised in Maryland and has the accent to prove it. Expect Tester to point out who knows Montana values through and through a couple of times.

One last point here. Montana is an open-primary state. See below for the implications of that. (V)

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