On the Trail: Sununu discusses what his run for president would look like for NH

  • Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina plans to begin airing TV ads in Iowa and N.H. early next week. AP file

  • Gov. Chris Sununu says he’ll make a decision by June on whether he will seek a higher office, but that he remains focused on New Hampshire. Paul Steinhauser / For the Monitor

  • Paul Steinhauser—For the Monitor

  • Nikki Haley will be holding an event at the VFW Hall in Concord on May 24. Monitor file

For the Monitor
Published: 5/19/2023 11:10:59 AM
Modified: 5/19/2023 11:08:39 AM

Gov. Chris Sununu likes to highlight that he’s “a New Hampshire guy” and “the governor 24-7.”

So how does New Hampshire’s popular Republican governor square that with potentially running for president, which would entail plenty of out-of-state campaigning and fundraising.

“Whatever we would do, would be structured around making sure the needs of the state don’t go unmatched,” Sununu said.

Sununu said New Hampshire would still remain his top priority if he launched a presidential campaign.

“The state comes first,” Sununu said. “Making sure if we do this, all the pieces are in place to make sure, whatever needs there are, are going to be met. And that’s something I’m quite passionate about.”

Sununu, while making no announcements about his future intentions, took questions from reporters following the latest meeting of New Hampshire’s Executive Council this week.

“We’re not going to walk away from this state,” the governor said. “I wouldn’t do anything that would put in the state in any sort of harm’s way.”

Sununu also reiterated that he’ll make a decision on whether to jump into the race for the Republican presidential nomination by late June, after the conclusion of the current legislative session and signing the state’s next budget into law.

The governor’s traveled out of the state plenty in recent months, and The New Hampshire Democratic Party has repeatedly criticized him for his forays.

One aspect of running for president that Sununu says he’s not concerned about is fundraising.

“That’s actually the least of my worries,” he said.

While Sununu – who’s currently serving his fourth two-year term steering New Hampshire – has convincingly won his past two re-elections, he’s far from over-achieved when it to comes to fundraising in any of his four gubernatorial victories.

That is despite his well-known family name – he’s the son of former Gov. John E. Sununu, who later served as President George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff and younger brother to former congressman and former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu. But the past six months, Sununu has huddled with major financial backers at numerous donor retreats.

“I’m shockingly surprised at how easy the fundraising would be,” the governor said. “The fundraising would not be the problem. There’s a lot of money out there. There’s a lot of folks that would get behind us early on if I were to create a committee or an exploratory committee.”

Sununu was far from the only likely or potential Republican presidential contender this week in the state that holds the first primary and second overall contest in the GOP nominating calendar.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who’s expected to launch a White House campaign in the coming weeks, was in Concord on Tuesday evening, headlining an awards dinner  at the Grappone Center hosted by the conservative think tank the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy.

On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a roundtable discussion in Bedford with roughly 50 state representatives who are backing his looming campaign. DeSantis is expected to sign paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to launch a presidential campaign next week. And former CIA agent and former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, who’s seriously mulling a presidential bid, joined the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women at an event at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

Former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley returns to New Hampshire next week, for her fourth trip to the state since launching her presidential campaign in February. And next Thursday Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina returns. Scott’s expected to declare his candidacy for the White House on Monday at an event in his home state.

At the top of the list of GOP candidates is former President Donald Trump, who launched his third straight White House run in November and is currently the clear front-runner in the early GOP nomination polling.

Also in the race are former congressman and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; multi-millionaire entrepreneur, best-selling author and conservative commentator Vivek Ramaswamy; Michigan businessman and 2022 gubernatorial candidate Perry Johnson; and conservative radio talk show host and former California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – who ran for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination – and Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota, as well as former Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan are also seriously mulling White House runs.

Sununu, a vocal Republican critic of Trump, has long argued that the former president – if nominated next year – will lose the general election. Asked if a growing field of GOP presidential rivals will only divide the opposition and allow Trump to capture the Republican nomination, Sununu said no.

“You can’t kind of tell people not to run. Whoever wants to run is going to run,” he added.

But Sununu emphasized that “there is going to be a process of which it’s going to be narrowed down a lot more aggressively than it did in ‘16,” as he pointed to the 2016 cycle when a crowded and divisive field of candidates opened the door to Trump’s nomination victory ahead of his upset general election win.

“Everyone understands that it just needs to narrow down and my guess is that it will narrow down the end of the fall and as we go into early next year. And it will narrow down quickly,” Sununu said. “If you were going to tell me there’s going to be 10 or 12 people in the race through March and April of next year, yeah, that’s going to be a problem. But that’s not going to happen. That’s going to winnow down very quickly.” 


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