GOFFSTOWN, N.H. – Gov. Larry Hogan, in his most forceful language to date, charges that the controversial move last month by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida to fly migrants from Texas to the progressive bastion of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts was a “terrible idea” and a “publicity stunt.”
“He grabbed 50 people and sent them to Martha’s Vineyard as a publicity stunt and I think I was a terrible idea. Let’s just try to address the issue seriously and fix the problem rather than try to get on TV,” the term-limited Republican governor of blue state Maryland argued as he took questions from the audience during a stop in New Hampshire on Thursday. “It’s not a serious discussion. It’s not a good solution.”
Hogan, who’s mulling a potential bid for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, made his comments as he headlined the latest edition of “Politics and Eggs.” The speaking series at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics for two decades has been a must stop for potential or actual White House contenders visiting the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state.
The governor claimed the that move by DeSantis was “really was just to get attention, I think. Didn’t solve any problem. There’s tens of thousands of people crossing the border and 50 people dropping off in Martha’s Vineyard, I don’t think is going to fix it.”
Taking a question from Fox News Digital following the event, Hogan noted that he hadn’t talked directly with the Florida governor, and he reiterated that “I just didn’t think that was a smart idea. I thought it was a publicity stunt. And I would tell him that to his face.”
DeSantis, whose popularity has soared among conservatives in Florida and across the country the past two and a half years, courtesy of his forceful pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions and his aggressive actions as a culture wars warrior, sparked a new controversy last month with the flying of the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.
While igniting outrage among Democrats, the calculated move spotlighted the combustible issue of illegal immigration and border security, which fires up the GOP base but also connects with independent voters who may be frustrated with the Biden administration efforts in handling the surge in border crossings into the U.S. over the past year and a half.
DeSantis has repeatedly defended his move and says outrage over the flight was misplaced.
“It’s really frustrating. Millions of people since Biden’s been president, illegally coming across the southern border. Did they freak out about that? No,” DeSantis said last month in an appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity.”
“You’ve had migrants die in the Rio Grande — you had 50 die in Texas in a trailer because they were being neglected. Was there a freakout about that? No, there wasn’t,” DeSantis added.
Pushing back against criticism, the governor’s office said in a statement that “Florida gave them [the migrants] an opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary jurisdiction that offered greater resources for them.”
Political prognosticators also view DeSantis as a potential 2024 Republican presidential hopeful, and Hogan’s comments could serve as a preview of things to come when the next GOP nomination battle officially gets underway following November’s midterm elections.
“I think we’ve got to secure the border and then find a pathway to citizenship,” Hogan told the audience in New Hampshire. “I did join in with 23 other governors with a border strike force to try and secure the border because I think the federal government is failing in that regard.”
Hogan also said the move by longtime Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas to bus migrants who crossed from Mexico into his state to progressive northern cities “a mistake.” Among the cities where Abbott’s transported the migrants is Washington D.C, which borders Maryland.
Hogan told Fox News that he had a face-to-face conversation with Abbott and told the Texas governor “I don’t think it’s a great idea to be dropping off thousands of people on my state border” and said he asked Abbott to “please stop dropping them off next to us.”
The trip by Hogan to New Hampshire was his third since July, which is sparking more speculation about his national ambitions.
The governor told the audience that when it comes to a potential GOP presidential nomination run, “I think there are 15-20 that are potentially thinking about doing this.”
Asked if there’s room for someone who’s a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump in today’s Republican Party, Hogan said “Is there a lane? I don’t know. That’s part of what we’re trying to find out. I think there are 10 people who want to be the next Donald Trump and I think there may be a different lane.”
Hogan later touted to reporters that “whenever you talk about the five or six people who might be running for president, I’m included in that discussion….. obviously, it’s a longshot and it’s not what everybody’s focused on right now. But the election is two years from now and there’s a lot of things that can change… I think that it’s going to look a lot different than it looks right now.”
Asked by Fox News about a meeting he held last week with political advisers and top donors, Hogan said “I was updating some of my strongest supporters on exactly where we were,” but added that no decisions about 2024 will come until after his second and final term as governor ends in mid-January.”
But Hogan said he told his donors “that we’ve been to 25 states. We’ve done hundreds of national interviews and we’ve been meeting people everywhere….The crowd was very excited.”
Hogan said he’ll hold a leadership summit he’s holding in late November in Maryland with thought leaders from around the country together to try to talk about the path forward and what we can do to get the country moving in a different direction.”
“We’re all going to gather at the end of November and try to figure out what the path forward is the for the country and what my potential future might be,” he told Fox News.