Mitch McConnell, Susan Collins Urging Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to Run for Senate

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Maine Senator Susan Collins and other Republicans are urging Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to run for Senate.

McConnell and Florida Senator Rick Scott, who is heading the Republicans' Senate campaign arm, have had a number of conversations regarding recruitment with Hogan in recent months. Steven Law, McConnell's lieutenant who leads a McConnell-allied super PAC, has also spoken to Hogan.

Elaine Chao, McConnell's wife, who previously held positions in the Trump and George W. Bush administrations, has also attempted to recruit Hogan. Moderate Senate Republicans have tried to do so, as well. Other Washington officials have shared internal polling or made financial pledges to try to persuade Hogan that he would have a high probability of winning should he run for the Senate.

Hogan must decide before the February 22 filing deadline.

On Tuesday, Hogan said he continues to focus on his work as governor.

"I don't have a burning desire to serve in the U.S. Senate, and I do have a burning desire to continue to focus on this job completely every day, and that's what we are doing," Hogan said when asked about his future plans during a news conference on tax relief proposals he will make during the state's legislative session.

Regarding a possible presidential run, Hogan said, "There's plenty of time to worry about that.

"We just started 2022. We certainly don't have to start talking about 2024."

Larry Hogan, Senate Election Recruitment, Republican
Elaine Chao, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife, who previously held positions in the Trump and George W. Bush administrations, has attempted to recruit Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to run for the Senate. In this photo, Hogan holds a news conference on the state's COVID-19 situation, at the Maryland State Capitol on August 5, 2021, in Annapolis, Maryland. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Joe Biden carried Maryland by 32 percentage points in 2020, and a Republican hasn't won a statewide federal office in more than 30 years. Hogan, who is prevented by term limits from running for re-election, has long resisted the idea of challenging Democratic incumbent Senator Chris Van Hollen. One of the GOP's most prominent critics of former President Donald Trump, Hogan has toyed with mounting a presidential campaign in 2024.

Still, his willingness to recently engage with high-profile recruiters suggests Hogan has not ruled out a Senate run. If he were to enter the Senate race, it would force Democrats to devote money and other resources in a longtime blue state at a time when they're already bracing for a difficult campaign season across the country.

The recruitment effort was described by multiple people with direct knowledge of the talks. They requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Publicly, Democrats remain confident about their standing in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one.

"Our campaign is totally prepared for whoever Mitch McConnell recruits to run here," Van Hollen spokesman Keith Presley said. "Senator Van Hollen is busy working to get results for the people of Maryland and to protect our democracy."

With Hogan seemingly unpersuaded by McConnell's pitches, Chao encouraged a Senate bid during a private lunch with Hogan's wife in the Maryland governor's mansion, which Hogan briefly attended. Chao was scheduled to bring her father to another private lunch with Mrs. Hogan, although it was canceled due to a COVID-19 concern.

During the lunch, Chao emphasized the sense of community on Capitol Hill with the other senators' families. She also appealed to Mrs. Hogan's sense of patriotism, pitching the Senate as a great way for the Hogans to serve their country. Chao and Yumi Hogan, both prominent Asian Americans, were friends before the Senate race became a focus.

At the same time, a handful of Republican senators, including Collins, have reached out to Hogan directly to encourage him to run. And more than one suitor, including at least one fellow Republican governor, has made the case that the Senate could be a stepping stone to a future presidential bid, which Hogan has openly contemplated.

Those close to Hogan are skeptical that he will ultimately decide to run for the Senate. So far, he has done nothing to prepare for a Senate campaign aside from agreeing to speak to his Republican recruiters.

Washington Republicans are betting that Hogan could break their losing streak in Maryland. He's already won statewide office twice, including in 2018, an election year that favored Democrats nationally. He has enjoyed strong approval ratings throughout his time in office.

But history suggests that appeal in statewide elections may not transfer to higher office. Montana's former two-term governor, Steve Bullock, was a prized Democratic recruit for Senate in 2020 who went on to lose his race by 10 percentage points in a campaign dominated by national issues.

Should Hogan run, his team knows he will be tested as never before.

For example, he has so far largely avoided the stain of a developing ethics scandal involving his former chief of staff, Roy McGrath, who is facing multiple state and federal criminal charges related to a severance package he sought when he left the top job at a quasi-public state agency to serve as Hogan's top aide.

The messy situation is just the kind of political ammunition critics in both parties might use to attack Hogan in a well-funded television advertising campaign.

"The fact that Hogan would vote to make Mitch McConnell majority leader and turn the Senate over to Republicans—coupled with his escalating corruption and ethics scandals—would provide voters more than enough reasons to decisively reject his campaign," said David Bergstein, spokesman for the Senate Democrats' campaign arm. "If he does run, all he'll do is join the 40-year-long history of Republicans losing statewide federal elections in Maryland."

Update 01/11/22, 5:10 p.m. ET: This story was updated with comment from Hogan and information about him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.