McConnell worked quietly to persuade Hogan into Senate race

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) worked hard behind the scenes to recruit popular former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to run for retiring Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D-Md.) seat and hailed his entry into the race Friday as a “big, big development.”

McConnell said he and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Sen. Steve Daines (Mont.) had “numerous conversations” with Hogan over the past week to help persuade him to run for Cardin’s seat.

“I enjoyed conversations we’ve had with Larry over the last week. He’s extraordinarily popular. To be competitive in a blue state like that is quite a boost for us,” McConnell told The Hill.

“Steve Daines and I both had numerous conversations with him. My political team as well,” McConnell said, stressing that Hogan “is very, very popular.”

Hogan’s decision to announce his Senate candidacy on the same day of Maryland’s filing deadline suddenly turns a race that Democrats were expected to win easily into a competitive contest where they may have to spend heavily to defend the seat.

Democrats have a built-in advantage in the liberal state, but Hogan, who served as governor from 2015-23, left office with an impressive 77 percent approval rating.

Neither of the two leading candidates for the Senate Democratic nomination, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks nor Rep. David Trone (D-Md.), has broken through as the clear favorite to advance to the general election.

Alsobrooks replaced her campaign manager and brought in new staff in December amid low poll numbers and lackluster fundraising.

McConnell worked quietly to entice Hogan to jump into the race even as he was under intense criticism from disgruntled conservatives in his conference, including Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Lee (Utah) and Ron Johnson (Wis.), who relentlessly bashed a bipartisan border security deal he helped broker with Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.).

Cruz even called for McConnell to step down as GOP leader amid the discord Tuesday.

On Friday, the 81-year old Senate GOP leader had the satisfaction of striking a blow to Democrats’ hopes of keeping their Senate majority.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will now have to keep a close eye on the Maryland Senate race as well as worry about vulnerable Democratic incumbents in Montana, Ohio, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

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