Depending on how you slice the data, the June 24 primary would be a Larry Hogan victory, with the only question being the margin.
The two major Maryland media outlets polled the race earlier this month, and a summary of the results had the same approximate order of Larry Hogan, David Craig, Charles Lollar, and Ron George. But it’s worth also pointing out that the sample size between polls conducted by the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun varied widely.
The Post‘s polling data split into two parts: registered voters and likely voters. And while Hogan had a statistically sizable lead among likely voters, it practically melted away among simply registered voters. Likely voters (with a previous Post poll in February as comparison):
- Larry Hogan – 35% (up from 22%)
- David Craig – 19% (up from 13%)
- Charles Lollar – 13% (up from 6%)
- Ron George – 5% (stayed in place)
Among them, Larry Hogan finally climbed ahead of Mr. Undecided, who’s now at 20%. Out of simply registered voters, though:
- Larry Hogan – 23% (up from 17%)
- David Craig – 18% (up from 13%)
- Charles Lollar – 12% (up from 10%)
- Ron George – 8% (up from 4%)
Mr. Undecided still leads there with 25%.
What this tells me is that, for anyone but Larry Hogan to win, the campaigns need to push their GOTV effort among supporters. The Post’s sample sizes are exceedingly small – 228 registered Republicans and just 110 likely ones – leading to very high margins of error of 7.5 and 11 points, respectively. And perhaps it’s not coincidental that both Post-endorsed candidates are leading their respective races.
You may also recall that awhile back Larry Hogan touted a poll where he trailed Anthony Brown by single-digits. Unfortunately, the Post did a projected Hogan vs. Brown matchup and it came out 51-33 Brown. It’s a counter-intuitive result when you look deeper into the poll’s questions to find that Democrats want the next governor to lead the state in a different direction from Martin O’Malley by a 58-34 margin. Yet they have given Anthony Brown a significant primary lead and would presumably back him in the general election.
A few days earlier, the Baltimore Sun came out with their poll, which also showed Larry Hogan out in front. They did a similar poll in February as well.
- Larry Hogan – 27% (up from 13%)
- David Craig – 12% (up from 7%)
- Charles Lollar – 12% (up from 5%)
- Ron George – 6% (stayed in place)
Again, Mr. Undecided was the clear winner with 37%, and in the Sun‘s case both polls are of likely voters with a much more significant sample size of about 500 voters – it makes the margin of error 4.4%. Except for Ron George, who basically had to disappear from the campaign trail while the General Assembly was in session, every one of the contenders essentially doubled their support in three-plus months.
If you take the most recent polls and combine them using the sample sizes, which gives higher weight to the larger Sun poll, you come up with these figures, which I also compare to a post I did in February:
- Larry Hogan – 26.9% (14.4%)
- David Craig – 14.5% (9.3%) (-12.4)
- Charles Lollar – 12.0% (7.5%) (-14.9)
- Ron George – 6.3% (5.1%) (-20.3)
If the undecideds fall along that line, the results would be:
- Larry Hogan – 45.1%
- David Craig – 24.3%
- Charles Lollar – 20.1%
- Ron George – 10.6%
I would say there’s a 50-50 chance that Hogan makes it to 50%, given that some who were thinking of voting for one of the bottom-tier candidates (particularly George) may decide to go with the guy leading the most-touted polls. Because Hogan’s already above the 40% mark I think that’s now a prospect, which may help the MDGOP rally behind Hogan as a nominee. Obviously that support wouldn’t be universal, but getting over 50% would be better than just a plurality for unity’s sake.
So it’s apparent that the message of “change,” no matter how vague and shallow – combined with a lot of money out of the candidate’s pocket and a dose of public financing – seems to appeal with Maryland Republicans who, at this juncture, believe Hogan is the best candidate. In order for second-place contender (based on poll average) David Craig to win, supporters of the Charles Lollar and Ron George campaigns would have to abandon that choice to throw their support behind Craig, and that’s a dubious prospect.