A Brief History of Maryland Split-Ticket Voting

The GOP path to taking control of the U.S. Senate got even clearer with Larry Hogan entering the Maryland U.S. Senate race this winter

More than two months after former two-term Maryland Governor Larry Hogan filed his paperwork as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, a new survey by the Baltimore Sun finds he still holds a double-digit lead against each of his likely Democratic opponents (three-term U.S. Representative David Trone and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks).

Hogan’s lingering popularity among the electorate should not be surprising on its face – he won reelection by 11.9 points in 2018 despite a national Democratic wave and left office 15 months ago with a high approval rating.

But how unusual would it be for Maryland to split its vote this November?

For starters, there is little doubt President Joe Biden will carry the Old Line State – although unlikely by the near historic numbers he enjoyed in 2020.

Biden defeated The Traitor by 33.2 points four years ago – the second largest victory margin in Maryland during the modern two-party era (1828+) behind only Horatio Seymour’s 34.4-point win over Ulysses Grant in 1868.

Biden’s 65.4 percent was also the third largest support a presidential nominee has received in the state during this span behind Seymour’s 67.2 percent and President Lyndon Johnson’s 65.5 percent in 1964.

So how often have Maryland voters backed nominees from different political parties for these top two federal offices?

Overall, Marylanders have split their ticket in four of the 18 cycles in which they have voted for president and U.S. Senator during the direct election era (22.2 percent).

That is slightly behind the national average of 27.1 percent across more than 920 opportunities from 1916 through 2020.

If Biden and Hogan are victorious this autumn it would mark the first such split ticket in Maryland since 1988 when Vice President George H.W. Bush defeated Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis by 2.9 points and two-term Democratic Senator Paul Sarbanes cruised to a 23.6-point victory over Alan Keyes in his first of many campaigns for federal office.

Maryland voters also split their tickets in:

  • 1916: President Woodrow Wilson beat former Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes by 8.0 points while physician and former GOP State Senator Joseph France defeated four-term Democratic U.S. Representative David Lewis by 1.7 points
  • 1968: Vice President Hubert Humphrey eked out a 1.6-point win against former VP Richard Nixon as four-term Republican U.S. Representative Mac Mathias unseated Democratic Senator Daniel Brewster by 8.7 points.
  • 1980: President Jimmy Carter carried the state by 3.0 points over Ronald Reagan while Senator Mathias won a third term by 32.3 points over Democratic State Senator Edward Conroy.

It should be noted that although three of the four aforementioned split-ticket cycles in Maryland saw the state back a Democratic nominee for president and a Republican nominee for U.S. Senator, that scenario has historically been much less common nationwide than the reverse.

There have been 155 instances of a state voting for a GOP presidential nominee and a Democrat for U.S. Senator since 1916, but only 79 cases for the reverse (76 outside of Maryland). [There have also been 17 other instances involving a third party victor for one of these two offices].

And while Hogan may have momentum at the moment, his campaign is probably not expecting to coast to an easy victory in November: there has never been an instance in which Maryland split its ticket for president and U.S. Senator by double-digits in each race. (Democratic presidential nominees have won by 10+ points during each of the last eight cycles since 1992, and Biden is expected to do so again in 2024).

Moreover, split-ticket voting for these offices has been a rarity of late across the country, with only one state doing so during the last two presidential elections (Maine in 2020). From 1916 through 2012, an average of 10 states split their ticket for president and U.S. Senator each cycle.

During the 14 cycles in which Maryland did not split its ticket, the state backed both Democratic nominees 10 times (1932, 1940, 1944, 1964, 1976, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2012, 2016) and both Republicans four times (1920, 1928, 1952, 1956).

Hogan will face several little-known opponents in next month’s Republican primary and should win with an outright majority by a comfortable double-digit margin.

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