The following is a transcript of an interview with former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, that aired on “Face the Nation” on September 3, 2023.
ROBERT COSTA: We’re joined now by the former governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan. Governor, thank you for being here. We appreciate it. Thanks.
FORMER MARYLAND GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Thanks for having me.
ROBERT COSTA: Last time, we sat down for a conversation for Face the Nation, it was back in March. And you told us you were not going to seek the Republican presidential nomination, in part because you believed that the field needed to be small in order for another Republican to have a chance to beat former president Donald Trump. Now, months later, do you believe the GOP field as is, is too big?
HOGAN: Oh, absolutely. I believe it now more than I did back in March. And as you know, that’s why I made the decision. I didn’t want to see a repeat of 2016. I didn’t want to see this multi-car pileup where the 50% of the Republican primary voters that don’t want Donald Trump are divided among the 11 people. And that’s exactly what I was afraid of, is what’s happening. I think it’s a real problem. And I think, you know, we now know that it’s a problem. And I think we’ve got to start thinking about trying to show some leadership and taking some action to change that.
ROBERT COSTA: So what do you mean by that? Taking leadership? Taking action? It’s September, it’s not March. It’s not July, it’s not August, it’s September, Trump is dominating the polls. You have some people on the side of the debate stage who are polling in the single digits, should they get out?
HOGAN: Look, I think there’s too many people in the field, you should not be in the race. If you’re- if you don’t make the debate stage, you likely should consider getting out. If you’re on the debate stage, and you’re willing to stand up and challenge the leader that’s at 50%, if you’re unwilling to challenge Donald Trump, you should get off the stage. You know, Ramaswamy, for example, is up there being a cheerleader and a fill-in for Trump. He shouldn’t be running for president, he should, you know, he obviously is trying to apply for a job for Trump. But if you’re in there running for vice president, or you’re trying to be a cabinet secretary, or you’re trying to become famous, or write a book or get on television, you should get the heck out of the race. We need to narrow it down to find a leader who can get the Republican Party back on the right track. And that could get us back to winning elections. Again, it’s not going to happen with 11 people in the race.
ROBERT COSTA: Who specifically? Former congressman Will Hurd didn’t make the debate stage should he get out?
HOGAN: You know, Will is a great friend. I have tremendous admiration for him. I agree with him on so many issues, but he’s not going to be president. And he didn’t make the debate stage. And I think he contributes a lot to the discussion. He and I see a lot of things eye to eye, but yeah, I don’t think that at this point he should be in the race. But I don’t want to go through the list of which one? Which one, should we get out and get in the process of the decision, they have to make–
ROBERT COSTA: — but time is of the essence, Governor.
HOGAN: What I’m- I’m having conversations, most of these folks are friends of mine. I’m talking with other leaders in the party, they share this concern, this issue that you’re getting to. And I think we’re going have to continue to have those discussions and try to get people to- but I’m giving private advice to many of the people running. I think other leaders are going to come together and we’re going to have to figure out how can we convince people to put aside their own egos and their own goals to just make sure we do the right thing for the country in the party.
ROBERT COSTA: How do you force that conversation? It’s a difficult one. I saw in politics for years, most politicians wake up, they look in the mirror, they see a future president. It’s tough to have that kind of conversation.
HOGAN: It’s very, very tough, which is why it hasn’t happened yet. But I’m holding out hope that we’ll- we’ll get this figured out. And you know, my total focus at this point is trying to make sure we can get a challenger that’s going to win this nomination. That’s not Donald Trump that can get us back to winning elections again and to win the race in November.
ROBERT COSTA: You said you were going to talk to your friends in the traditional Republican wing of the GOP, a party still dominated by Trump. How would you describe the level of concern? Is it quiet concern twiddling our thumbs right now among donors and traditional Republicans? Or is there a real alarm, that it’s September and Trump’s dominating?
HOGAN: I think there’s a real alarm. And it’s becoming more and more real. I mean, people were somewhat hopeful that we would be in a different place by now. And now they’re starting to come to the realization that, hey, this is- we might actually have Donald Trump as the nominee, and Joe Biden as the nominee. And this is something that 70% of the people in America do not want. They do not want Donald Trump or Joe Biden, they don’t want a rematch. And they don’t think these are the two best choices to be running in the race.
ROBERT COSTA: What about a late entry from Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia? Or Governor Glen Youngkin of Virginia? It may not be possible to get on the ballot in Iowa and South Carolina in those early states. But could you see a late entry trying to make a play for the convention?
HOGAN: Well, it seems like the opposite of what I’ve been saying. You know, we’ve got eleven people in the race. We have six of my former gubernatorial colleagues already in the race. I’m not sure whether one or two more is going to fix the problem. I also just don’t think it’s going to happen. I mean, they’re both great governors. I campaigned and helped both of them. But October 15 is the deadline and they all just talk about somebody’s going to get in at the end of the year or next year. That’s not going to happen. It’s- it’s six weeks away.
ROBERT COSTA: You just said that many voters across this country don’t want President Biden as the Democratic nominee and don’t want former President Trump as the Republican nominee. And as you navigate the political scene, you have been serving as the honorary co-chairman of this group, No Labels, which is considering publicly a possible independent or third party ticket that would bring together a Republican and a Democrat to offer an alternative presidential ticket. So many Democrats say that if this was happen, if this was put together early next year, it would be a spoiler for President Biden and it would effectively help elect Trump, should he be the nominee.
HOGAN: I’m not sure where they come up with that. I think that all started when there was a lot of talk about a Democrat heading up this ticket and they didn’t want a Democrat splitting up the Democratic vote. There was talking- there was a lot of talk–
ROBERT COSTA: Right, because there’s been talk about Senator Joe Manchin being atop the ticket.
HOGAN: And that- that’s really what set them off in a panic, they thought that he was only going to draw away from President Biden. But the Biden team ought to be concerned right now; they have a Green Party candidate that’s drawing three or four percent all away from Biden and then talk about a spoiler. No Labels is not an effort to try to help Donald Trump and to be a spoiler for Joe Biden, I don’t think there’s a soul in this organization that’s- that’s trying to promote Donald Trump. And if we don’t get into the process, and how and why. Basically, you got to figure out why are we in this situation? We’re in this situation because we have two potential terrible nominees of the two major parties that 70% of people in America don’t want. That’s what No Labels is about. It’s a citizen saying, maybe we have to try something else.
ROBERT COSTA: Would that be a spoiler? To your point you just made, does that mean a Republican like yourself, in your mold, perhaps or even you has to be at the top of the No Labels ticket, should there be a No Labels ticket?
HOGAN: I think we should only put together a ticket in the event that it’s Trump and Biden. And I’m still, again, still trying to work to make sure we can get a good Republican nominee. And this doesn’t- it’s no longer necessary. But it has to be a good ticket that can actually win, you know, I would only be in it to win it. Nobody’s trying to spoil anything. This is about actually receiving a majority of the votes. And I would say the last time we had somewhat of a successful third party run, it was Ross Perot, who dropped out of the race and had all kinds of problems and came back in and still was at about 20%. But he was a Republican who ran as an independent and took, you know, most people would argue, I think he drew from both sides. But it didn’t, you know, hurt the Democrat, it hurt the Republican.
ROBERT COSTA: And the Ross Perot experience in 1992, he gets about 19% of the popular vote, but it’s very difficult to win the White House in a system that’s the electoral college.
HOGAN: It’s very true. It’s, you know, it’s something that’s never really happened. I mean, but we’re at a point where we’ve never been in America. So we just don’t know. And you know, that things change, we have eight months to figure this out. It’s going to be after Super Tuesday, and sometime in the spring, where, you know, maybe this in case of emergency break glass scenario takes place. And, you know, I hate everybody- insiders in Washington and this will never happen, this is how it’s gonna affect. We don’t know who we’re going to be as a country. We don’t know who the potential candidates might be. But it very well may be the first time in our history where the American public is really hungry for something like this.
ROBERT COSTA: You just used the phrase “insiders in Washington,” if people are frustrated with the Democrats and Republicans, maybe they are looking for an alternative, but No Labels, the group you’re the honorary co-chairman of, has not released its list of donors. They’re under the cloud of the election law where they can not be disclosed to the public. Do you believe No Labels now or at some point in the future is going to have to offer Americans clarity about who’s spending money on No Labels in order to win the public’s trust, if they want to move forward?
HOGAN: Sure. Well, you know, it’s a tax exempt, you know, grassroots citizen organization, just like thousands of others and that’s just what the rules are. They’re not a political party, they- they don’t have a candidacy they’re behind. They’re not backing anyone. If in fact, that became a campaign, they obviously would have to follow all the same rules that all the rest of the campaigns do. But right now, there’s just an awful lot of attacks and criticism, because they’re really worried that this- this kind of citizen uprising is gaining a lot of traction. And they’re really concerned about the- the two weak nominees that they might be faced with.
ROBERT COSTA: Well, to your point, there’s concern, especially among allies of the White House, that a Democratic independent ticket would pull from Biden. But let’s- let’s be real, if Trump is going to end up- looks like the nominee, come January and February of next year, are you Larry Hogan, open to being atop a No Labels ticket as a Republican type candidate with No Labels?
HOGAN: It’s not something I’m pursuing.
ROBERT COSTA: I know it’s not- we know you’re not pursuing it. Is it- is it at least an open door?
HOGAN: I’m hoping we don’t get to that point. I have not closed the door to that. If I believe that we can actually win the race. We have a strong ticket- that those two major candidates are weak- we might have to try to pull off something that’s never been done, which is sort of what I did in Maryland.
ROBERT COSTA: And it’s really going to be a response to Trump’s place in the presidential race. And he’s now facing four active criminal indictments, trials colliding with the primary schedule.
HOGAN: But look, we’ve got two guys at 80 or around 80. The current President has two different independent counsels investigating multiple different things, problems with his son. We’ve got the former President, who is running this whole grievance effort- getting- still debating the results of the last election and has four different indictments and potentially 90 some charges against them. I mean, if ever, there was a time to say, maybe we need to have a choice C, it might be 2024.
ROBERT COSTA: So if not Hogan, as a Republican type atop a No Labels ticket, who else is on your radar as someone who could fill that gap?
HOGAN: You know, it’s got to be somebody that’s- that’s truly- this group is truly bipartisan, and it’s got to be somebody that can reach across the aisle to get things done. It’s got to be somebody that’s a common sense leader that’s willing to work with people that they don’t always agree with in order to accomplish things. And, you know, I would say we’ve proven that in the bluest state in America with a 70% legislature. We got a heck of a lot done and left with huge, you know, approval numbers among Democrats, independents and Republicans. Charlie Baker did this in Massachusetts, Phil Scott did it in Vermont. You know, there are a number of people- it’s not going to happen by you know, a MAGA Republican or a far left Democrat. That’s not- not- not what this group is looking for.
ROBERT COSTA: Senator Manchin, you’ve worked with him across the aisle on different political issues, different policy issues. He now seems to be exploring, based on a Wall Street Journal report, his own path maybe separate from No Labels. Will that complicate what you’re thinking about with No Labels?
HOGAN: Well, I have a lot of respect for Joe Manchin, and he’s been very involved in this organization for many, many years, much longer than myself. I don’t know what his plans are. I don’t think he knows what his plans are. He’s still trying to figure that out. But, you know, when I started a group called An America United, we had 2,000 People at an event in the fall with, you know, huge crowd, we raised about 1.2 million. He’s now starting a thing called America Together, which sounds similar to the effort, but I’m not sure what the, you know, the concept of saying we have to try to get- bring people together. I think Joe Manchin and I agree on. That the two parties are not, are not really the way they used to be. And they’re not- the divisiveness, dysfunction, the anger, the toxic politics is something Joe Manchin is fed up with. And so am I.
ROBERT COSTA: And final thing, we know you’re not pursuing the No Labels ticket at this point. It’s just all wait and see, exploring options in a very almost informal way, though No Labels is doing some due diligence on the process. Do you believe there’s actually going to be a No Labels ticket or not next year?
HOGAN: I think there’s a good likelihood that there- there could be. I don’t know the odds. And there’s a lot of things that have to happen. Again, I’m still hopeful that I don’t- I’m not sure sitting here today that Donald Trump and Joe Biden are the two nominees of the major parties or whether this ever lifts off the ground. But if in fact, that’s the case, I do believe that this group has a chance to get access to the ballot in all 50 states and if they put together you know, a- a really great ticket and ran a perfect campaign, that they would actually have a shot to be not just a spoiler, but to be in it to win it.
ROBERT COSTA: Former Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, we appreciate you coming by Face the Nation, and we’ll be right back.
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