On the trail: New fireworks in Trump-Sununu war of words

  • Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie held campaign events across the state this week, including stops in Manchester and Derry. Paul Steinhauser—For the Monitor

  • Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie held campaign events across the state this week, including stops in Manchester and Derry. Paul Steinhauser—For the Monitor

  • President Donald Trump is greeted by New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, left, at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in August of 2020. Their already lukewarm relationship soured in the days after that election when Sununu recognized Biden as president-elect. AP file

For the Monitor
Published: 8/12/2023 11:09:53 AM

If you needed additional proof of the bad blood between the most popular Republican in New Hampshire and the commanding front-runner for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination, you got it this week as former President Donald Trump threw punches at Gov. Chris Sununu – and the governor clapped back.

Sununu’s long been one of Trump’s most vocal critics in the Republican Party, so it was no shocker that Trump took aim at Sununu at his campaign event Tuesday at the high school in Windham.

Trump was rolling out his veterans coalition and vowing to build a full service VA hospital in New Hampshire. When the former president noted that the Granite State’s the only one in the nation not to have a full-service VA facility, a woman in the packed crowd of Trump supporters shouted out “because of our corrupt governor.”

Trump immediately picked up on the comment, interjecting that “I was waiting for that. Thank you,” as he asked the woman to stand up.

“We could win this state so easily if we had help from the governor, but we never got help from the governor,” Trump claimed. “We helped him, but he never helped us.”

Sununu, who’s reiterated that Trump is a damaged candidate who can’t win the 2024 general election, has made no secret of his intent to support one of the former president’s rivals for the GOP nomination ahead of next year’s New Hampshire primary.

Trump’s latest comments come a week after he took to social media to criticize Sununu, who flirted with a White House run of his own before announcing in early June that he wouldn’t launch a 2024 bid.

“RINO Chris Sununu recently stated that, ‘I’m not running for president in 2024. Beating Trump is more important.’ No, he’s not running for President because he’s polling at Zero, and has no chance of winning,” Trump argued on his Truth Social online social media outlet.

Trump claimed that Granite Staters “no longer like or respect” Sununu. And he emphasized “I never liked him, but always did whatever he asked for the State, because I wanted to help New Hampshire, and I did!”

Sununu, who famously called Trump “f—king crazy” at his speech at the annual Gridiron dinner and roast in April of last year in the nation’s capital, responded to Trump’s latest attack as he introduced one of the former president’s rivals for the nomination – former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – at a town hall in Salem on Wednesday.

Pointing to the large field of more than a dozen contenders for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Sununu said “they’re all great people… Well, most of them.”

“Except the orange-haired elephant in the room,” Sununu added, in a jab at Trump. “That guy’s just got an attitude problem.”

Christie says Trump made up audience quote

Christie, a one-time Trump ally who became one of the former president’s most vocal GOP critics, took some shots at Trump on Wednesday after the former president joked about the former New Jersey governor’s weight.

Christie dismissed Trump as “a child,” and claimed Trump orchestrated a supposed defense of Christie from an audience member at Tuesday’s campaign event calling the former governor a “fat pig.”

“I know from people who were in the room that the guy never said anything. There was no guy in the audience who yelled out the other name that he called me. He made it up like he always does,” Christie said in an interview with this reporter.

“Look, I’ll make it real easy for Donald Trump. You’re such a big guy, such a tough guy, so full of it. You want me? I’ll be on the stage in Milwaukee two weeks from tonight. I’ll be there waiting for you. You be there, I’ll be there,” Christie stressed, referencing the first GOP presidential nomination debate scheduled for Aug. 23.

Before allegedly defending Christie against the audience member, Trump mocked his weight. “Christie — he’s eating right now. He can’t be bothered,” Trump said as the crowd laughed.

Trump then appeared to jokingly admonish a member of the audience who, according to the former president, called Christie a “fat pig.”

“Sir, please do not call him a fat pig. That’s very disrespectful. Don’t call him — see, I’m trying to be nice,” Trump said. “Don’t call him a fat pig. You can’t do it. You can’t do that. So now, because you’re not allowed to do that, and, therefore, we’re not going to do it, OK? We want to be very civil, right?”

Christie, who’s making his second White House run, became the first among the other GOP 2016 contenders to endorse Trump, and for years he was a top outside adviser to the then-president and chaired Trump’s high-profile commission on opioids. However, the two had a falling out after Trump’s unsuccessful attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss to now-President Joe Biden.

Hutchinson aims to make debate stage

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is optimistic he’ll be on the stage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, later this month.

“I expect to be on the debate stage,” Hutchinson told this reporter on Wednesday, during a campaign swing in New Hampshire.

Eight candidates say they’ve reached the polling and donor thresholds mandated by the Republican National Committee in order to qualify for the initial showdown on Aug. 23. They are former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, and entrepreneur and best-selling author Vivek Ramaswamy.

Hutchinson is one of roughly a half dozen GOP White House hopefuls who are still aiming to make the stage. That list also includes former CIA spy and former Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami, Florida, Michigan businessman and quality control leader Perry Johnson, and Larry Elder, a former talk radio host who was a candidate for governor in the 2021 California recall election.

“People want me on there as someone who’s going to speak the truth and also to be a counter to Donald Trump and talk about how he would be taking our country in the wrong direction. I want to be on there. We’re not there yet. We need everybody’s help,” Hutchinson, a vocal Republican critic of the former president, said.

But Christie, in some blunt language, argues that for the candidates who “haven’t made the stage” at the upcoming first GOP presidential primary debate, “it’s time to go.”

Christie emphasized that the debate “means a lot for me and every other candidate. It’s going to be the biggest audience any of us have spoken before in a long time. It’s important for people to get to know you, to know who you are, what you want to do for the party and for the country. And that’s exactly what I intend to do in two weeks.”

But Christie, a master of in-your-face politics, stressed “if you don’t make the debate stage, you should leave the field. I think it’s that simple. That’s the first winnowing process.”


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