DEMOCRATIC LAWMAKERS in Maryland are a frustrated lot. Having run what amounted to a one-party state for all but four of the past 45 years, they are now bewildered by a popular Republican governor. Some of them regard Gov. Larry Hogan as a crafty illusionist whose main asset is good fortune. In fact, Mr. Hogan has been shrewd about one big thing: perfectly reading the state’s political mood.
Mr. Hogan, who never ran for statewide office before his 2014 gubernatorial campaign, enjoys phenomenal poll numbers. In one recent survey, just over 70 percent of Marylanders approved of his performance, higher than almost any other governor. Even in the city of Baltimore, whose residents are about two-thirds African American and heavily Democratic, his popularity is an astonishing 72 percent.
Mr. Hogan’s secret sauce is equal parts common sense, humility and cunning. He has had the common sense to oppose his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, and avoid no-win social issues such as abortion and gun control in a liberal state; the humility to pursue a limited agenda, focusing on modest trims to taxes and spending; and the cunning to make — or let — the state’s Democratic grandees look partisan and churlish.