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Wait, is Dan Cox now the favorite in the Republican primary?
Testing the potency of a Trump endorsement
If you had asked any insider about Maryland’s gubernatorial election over the course of the last year, they would have told you Kelly Shulz is the clear favorite.
Yup, she’ll emerge from the primary and ascend all the way to the governor’s mansion, where she’ll carry forth the legacy of departing Governor Larry Hogan’s reasonable brand of republicanism.
Maryland will become a lone beacon of red hope for a party otherwise descending into madness.
And Schulz is a strong candidate in her own right.
She has the political experience, having been a delegate and commerce secretary. She has the relatability, being a grandmother and having been a small business owner. And she has the support of key influencers, look at all those endorsements she’s been racking up.
She has the money too, sitting on a $1.5M purse, which is more than triple the bank of her challenger.
Local legacy media sees it all clearly.
And establishment Republican blog The Duckpin has Shulz ranked #1 overall in their gubernatorial power rankings, compared to an “unserious” Dan Cox who shares the #10 spot with Robin Ficker.
Oh yeah, Schulz has this thing in the bag, totally.
Enter former president Donald Trump and the apparent validation of his kingmaking capability.
Yes hitherto in these nationwide Republican primaries the defining feature of a winning candidate has been the Trump endorsement.
A couple weeks ago, the Washington Examiner reported that accordingly supported office seekers were a perfect 55-0 up to that point.
You saw it with JD Vance, who emerged from a crowded pro-MAGA field to win a senatorial primary in Ohio, capturing 32% of the vote after polling at just 11% mere weeks prior to Trump extending him the nod.
You saw it in West Virginia, where Trump backed congressional incumbent Alex Mooney licked fellow incumbent David Mckinley, who had previously voted in favor of both Biden’s infrastructure package and for opening an investigation into January 6th.
And you're seeing it in Pennsylvania, where a freshly Trump approved Doug Mastriano has emerged as a primary favorite, at least to the extent that the state’s GOP establishment is threatened enough to try and unseat him in favor of a separate candidate.
Now Trump’s hot streak was finally blemished on Wednesday in Nebraska when endorsee Charles Herbster fell, and many of those that he’s endorsed were indeed in favorable situations to begin with – but nonetheless there is still a clear pattern here.
A pattern strong enough that even the liberal analytics blog 538 by Nate Silver recognizes that a Trump endorsement is an asset to any campaign.
Of course Cox secured his Trump injection in November, and just last week he took a trip down to Mar-a-Lago for a sort of renewal of vows and the publicity lift that would follow it.
Does all this mean Cox is now the favorite to win Maryland’s Republican primary?
Well, not exactly.
You see Maryland is such a deep blue that even her Republicans are some mixture of purple or lavender or something fit for a special crayola crayon.
Yes it turns out there is a big difference between an Appalachia Republican in say Ohio, West Virginia, or Pennsylvania, and an Anne Arundel one.
As of March, 71% of Maryland’s Republicans approved of the job Governor Hogan was doing. Of course an approval of Hogan may not translate one-to-one into a vote for Shulz, but it would seem to illustrate how local Republicans hold a different sentiment than their national counterparts, who to this day retain an 83% aggregate approval rating of Trump.
Maryland is after all, one of only four remaining states where Biden’s approval mark is above ground.
All this deep blueness and conservative squishiness means the sharpest knife Shulz can wield against Cox in the primary, would be the accusation he could never win in the general.
In the end, it may be Cox’s ability to dull that blade over the next eight weeks or so that will determine what happens at the ballot box come July.
Maryland Muckraker is a completely independent and fearlessly conservative blog covering local issues by me, Ethan Reese. After spending nearly a decade in corporate Baltimore in marketing technology, figured I’d have a go at writing. Since then I’ve contributed articles to FOX’s OutKick, PJ Media, and Rare Politics, as well as being named a Writing Fellow with the America’s Future Foundation.
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