Fresh off his 2018 re-election in deep blue Maryland, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan says he is leaving the door open to challenging President Donald Trump in a Republican primary.
"People are talking to me about it," Hogan, a moderate, told CNN in an interview this week. "I'm watching with great interest all of this talk. I'm flattered people are saying that and including me in those discussions. My focus, my plan right now is to stay here for four years and do the best job I can in Maryland, but I've said, 'You never say never.' Who knows what's going to happen."
Asked if he's thinking about running, Hogan replied, "I would say I'm listening. I'm not sure how much thinking we're doing, but I haven't closed the door."
Any Republican challenge to the President would be a longshot. Trump's approval rating stands at 81% among Republicans in the latest CNN poll, he's already raised nearly $130 million for his re-election bid and the Republican National Committee recently committed its "undivided support" to the President. The White House is projecting confidence on any challenge, with White House director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp recently saying, "the President is ready for any candidate that would decide to go to run against him. We have a great record to run on, especially when you look at the economy."
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll, however, found one-in-three Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters would like the GOP to nominate "someone other" than Trump in 2020. For some in the Republican Party, Hogan is exactly the type of person they would like to see run.
As Hogan continues to listen to what people have to say, his eyes remain wide open about the odds and the possibility of 2020.
"I wouldn't be on some fool's errand to run some suicide mission. I would only run if I thought that I could actually win," he said.
Hogan is only the second Republican governor to be re-elected in Maryland's history. He credits his success working with a Democratic legislature to a bipartisan approach, signing new gun control measures, pushing to lower health insurance rates and addressing climate change.
It's the kind of leadership he thinks the Republican Party needs.
"I think the Republican Party is doing a little soul searching about how do we become, how do we maintain, how do we become a majority party," Hogan said.
"The Republican Party nationally seems to be getting a smaller and smaller base. I think the latest approval of the President was in the 30s, so you can't win a national election being in the 30s."
Hogan has made no secret of his opposition to Trump and did not support then-candidate Trump in 2016.
"I'm not protesting every day about every issue, but I stand up and certainly let people know when I disagree or when I think something is going on that I don't think is right," Hogan said of Trump.
"I know the President's been a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent, a Democrat again, a Republican. I guess he's a Republican now."
Mark Salter, speechwriter and longtime aide to the late Sen. John McCain, told CNN that Hogan and other Republican governors like him "will be the future of the party if it has a future. If not, do-nothing hardliners in Congress will be the death of it. "
Salter added "the GOP operates in campaigns on the premise that the fewer people who vote the better we'll do," adding someone like Hogan represents a new way forward, running in a high turnout Democratic wave in 2018 and winning big.
Tellingly, it was a former Trump rival, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who appeared on stage with Hogan during his recent inauguration.
"Larry's at the top of a list of leaders that I admire today because what's happening here in Annapolis is the antithesis of what's happening in Washington, DC, these days," Bush told the crowd.