'QAnon Whack Job' GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Down Big in Maryland: Poll

Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan's comments regarding Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox's mental acuity and his affinity for conspiracy theories is likely having an effect on the race.

A new poll released by Goucher College shows Cox, a Maryland state delegate, attorney and small businessman endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is down 22 points to Democratic challenger Wes Moore less than two months before the election. Moore is a combat veteran, Rhodes Scholar and former CEO of an anti-poverty nonprofit.

Hogan has declined to endorse either Cox or Moore. He has called Cox a "QAnon whack job" and a "nut job."

Hogan has maintained a strong base across party lines, achieving over 70 percent approval as of January, including 61 percent approval from Democrats and 69 percent from independents.

Dan Cox Uphill Battle Maryland
Dan Cox, a candidate the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Maryland, reacts to his primary win on July 19, 2022, in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Endorsed by former President Donald Trump, a new poll shows Cox down 22 points to Democrat Wes Moore less than two months before the election. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Maryland is viewed as a largely liberal state. President Joe Biden defeated Trump by more than 33 percentage points in the 2020 election.

"He's not, in my opinion, mentally stable," Hogan told radio station WGMD in August when asked about Cox. "Half of Republicans don't support the guy because he's a nut."

A total of 1,008 adults and 748 likely voters were surveyed by the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College, The Baltimore Banner and WYPR between September 8 and 12, with 53 percent of voters supporting Moore. About 9 percent of voters remain undecided and the margin of error for likely voters was plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

Carter Elliott, Moore's communications manager, told Newsweek that Cox "is too extreme for Maryland."

"The choice in this election is so clear that Governor Larry Hogan—the leader of Dan Cox's own party—has said he wouldn't even give Dan Cox a tour of the Governor's Office," Elliott said. "Given the fact that Dan Cox literally tried to undermine our democracy on January 6, it makes sense why Marylanders—including the governor—are rejecting his divisive politics, dangerous rhetoric and anti-American actions."

Of likely voters polled, 69 percent responded that they are "set" on their particular candidate, while less than 3 in 10 respondents said they could still change their minds.

Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics, told Newsweek that "the numbers demonstrate the huge contrast between the two candidates."

"Larry Hogan was a candidate that was able to win Democratic votes and he had a consistent approval rating that has been above 50 percent Democratic approval," Kromer said. "What we see with Dan Cox is a close alignment with former President Donald Trump."

Kromer said that while the peak of Trump's approval rating statewide never surpassed the low 30s, it was "particularly bad among Democrats," who have expressed satisfaction with Hogan.

Trump's endorsement of Cox might have garnered him the opportunity to face Moore in November, she added, but it translates into an uphill battle.

Cox's favorability ratings are 20 percent lower than Moore's, according to the poll. About 35 percent of those surveyed also have a perception that Cox is a "far or extreme right" candidate, which is higher than those who view him as "conservative" or "moderate."

Moore was viewed by 36 percent of respondents as "progressive or liberal," and by 22 percent of respondents as "moderate." Kromer referred to him as a "unifying force" among center-left voters.

"Hogan is a different type of Republican than Donald Trump is," Kromer said. "For Maryland, about 18 percent of voters are independents and Hogan won over 60 percent of that group. Cox is having a tough time reaching Democrats and independents....The math is that you just can't have robust-based turnout. You need crossover votes."

Cox, whom Trump called an "America-first patriot" prior to his primary victory, has vowed to "never again give over our bodies, our churches and our businesses to a lockdown state," a reference to COVID-19 protocols.

The Republican is also an election denier who attended the January 6, 2021, rally-turned-riot at the U.S. Capitol.

"[Cox] has always had an incredible uphill battle," Kromer said. "I think it's an incredible uphill battle generally, and I think you need to be an exceptional candidate like Larry Hogan in Maryland in general."

The problem for Cox is based on ideological alignments, she added.

"This race has given little incentive for Hogan voters to vote for Cox, and a lot of incentive for Democratic voters who voted for Hogan to come home to the Democratic Party, Kromer said. "That's what's happening here. Voters are just coming home."

Newsweek reached out to the Cox campaign and Hogan's office for comment.