Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, R, who is flirting with a 2020 White House run, on Thursday accused the Republican National Committee of taking "unprecedented" steps to shield President Donald Trump from primary challengers.
Hogan, who is being courted by Republican dissidents seeking an alternative to Trump, told Politico in an interview that he was disgusted by RNC efforts to close ranks around Trump and troubled by reports that Republicans in South Carolina were considering scrapping their primary altogether.
"I've never seen anything like it, and I've been involved in the Republican Party for most of my life. It's unprecedented," Hogan told Politico reporter Alex Isenstadt. "In my opinion, it's not the way we should be going about our politics."
Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse confirmed the comments made by the governor, who has stepped onto the national stage since his reelection in November to discuss the direction of the GOP, President Trump and his own future.
"The governor was referring to the reporting that the Trump campaign is seeking to close off parts of the primary process," Chasse said. "He sees it as . . . problematic, not the way it should work."
Hogan, who has criticized Trump since before the president was elected, is now speaking more frequently and in sharper tones about Trump and Washington politics.
Earlier this week in an appearance on CBS This Morning, Hogan said Trump acts "irrationally" at times and looks "pretty weak" in the general election. He also questioned the president's decision to issue an executive order declaring a national emergency over border security.
Hogan captured a significant portion of the African-American and female vote in heavily Democratic Maryland last November, when he became only the second Republican governor reelected in the state since Reconstruction.
Two people close to Hogan said the governor represents a style of Republicanism that is lacking in today's politics, and that he would like to revive. He has dramatically broken with mainstream GOP positions on issues like guns and immigration. But he says he wants to be a part of the national conversation about how to help move the party forward.
"And the question is, what are they afraid of?" Hogan said to Politico. "Because on the one hand you look at polls, 70 percent of Republicans support the president in a primary. Why are they so concerned? Why the puffing out the chest - 'We've put together the greatest team ever assembled, we're going to raise all this money early, we're going to hire all these people early, we're going to take over the RNC.' "
Hogan, who is the incoming chairman of the National Governors Association, is attending the group's gathering in Washington over the next few days. He will participate in a regional NGA meeting about business development during a trip to Iowa early next month.