Chris Sununu 2024

Does a successful, moderate governor stand any chance in today's GOP?

The Dispatch (“Chris Sununu Leans Into the White House Race“):

Chris Sununu is accelerating plans to run for president, with close allies telling The Dispatch the New Hampshire governor wants to seek the Republican nomination and is exploring avenues for mounting a viable 2024 campaign.

In telephone calls and in-person meetings, Sununu is pitching a potential White House bid to wealthy Republican donors in New Hampshire who have backed his four gubernatorial campaigns—and to top GOP financiers across the country. The response is encouraging the governor to move forward. Sununu’s political operation has conducted polling to test messaging and political competitiveness with Republican voters and is holding conversations with prospective campaign staff in the key, early primary states.

If he runs, Sununu would enter the contest no later than June 30, he says.

The timing seems to have more to do with the state’s legislative calendar than anything external.

The Concord Monitor‘s Paul Steinhauser offers these insights:

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 said 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,” pointing to the 2016 cycle when a crowded and divisive field of candidates opened the door to Trump’s nomination victory ahead of his White House 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. 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,” he said.

Asked by Fox News what his biggest concern would be if he launched a presidential campaign, the governor said that “the state comes first. 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. We’re not going to walk away from this state. … I wouldn’t do anything that would put in the state in any sort of harm’s way.”

Pointing to Sununu’s out-of-state travel, the New Hampshire Democratic Party recently charged that the governor “has never viewed being the governor as anything but a stepping stone. At every opportunity, Chris Sununu has left Granite Staters in the dust to build his celebrity status.”

Puck’s Tara Palmeri (“Chris Sununu Talks ’24“) adds:

Sununu told me that there’s a “61 percent chance” he runs for president—his words—and 39 percent chance that he just plays the role of kingmaker in New Hampshire, where he has some of the highest approval ratings in the country. In a long and candid conversation, he told me that he wants to wait until his legislature is out of session to make a decision. Unlike most pundits and operatives who argue for the value of early entry, Sununu thinks that he can make up his mind by mid-June. Indeed, Sununu has been criticized for a Hamletesque quality, one in which he appears to signal alternatively that he is running and then isn’t. But he is a contemplative guy. He told me there’s only a 50 percent chance he runs for re-election in New Hampshire, where he’s on his fourth consecutive two-year term, more than his dad, former governor John Sununu, and any other Republican in New Hampshire, ever.

Sununu sees confident he can raise enough money to mount a credible campaign and, after four terms (albeit short ones) he may simply be up for a new challenge. Still, while he’s reasonably well qualified to seek the office—and there may well be a demand for an under-50 President after years of geriatrics—I just don’t see him as a plausible nominee in the current Republican Party.

I wish it weren’t the case. On paper, at least, he’s bright and well-seasoned. He’s an MIT-educated environmental engineer and worked in that field for years. Before entering into elective politics, he was on the state’s Executive Council. As governor, he’s been the sort of moderate you’d expect in the Granite State. He’s reasonable on abortion and LGBTQ issues, supported COVID vaccination and masking and post-BLM police reform, and has been rabidly anti-Trump. That’s what a conservative party in 2023 should look like.

But, of course, the very things that make him attractive to me make him anathema to the post-Tea Party, and certainly post-Trump, Republican primary voter. I just don’t think there are enough moderates to overtake the MAGA win.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    IMO his best bet involves a Delorean and a flux capacitor. He might win the 2000 nomination that way.

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    At least he’s got better name recognition than Gov. Burgum or Ramawhatshisname. (Spell check seems OK with “Rama….”, but changed Burgum to Burgundy.)

    There must be good money in running for prez. There seem to be big bucks GOPs willing to back anything. Some are running for veep, for a cabinet post, to support a future run, or, as James suggests with Sununu, just because they’re at loose ends. Or maybe to have their name on the list if all those Diet Cokes and hamberders catch up with Trump. Or the sheriff. But for a lot, it seems to be just a way to make a buck for a year or two.

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  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    He has to talk about this as if he thinks he can win, but it’s very unlikely that he thinks he will win. Incumbents are hard to beat, and beating Trump in the primary will likely demotivate some of the MAGAs.

    It will give a voice to those Republicans – particularly donors – who think Trump is hurting their brand. It will also give Sununu a boost for a run in 2028, which is far more up for grabs that 2024.

    And yes, I know that Biden’s approval is poor right now. I expect a year or a bit more from now, it will be up strongly. I think a fair bit of his disapproval comes from Democrats who wouldn’t dream of voting for any Republican, much less Trump.

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  4. CSK says:

    Let’s see…that’s Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Chris Sununu, Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie running against Trump. Have I left out anyone?

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  5. steve says:

    This is probably aimed at 2028.

    Steve

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  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    Sununu should make the R “Normies” quiver with joy, but… By some miracle becomes the nominee, he could win in Nov since he would have appeal in the suburbs, but he ain’t getting the nomination.

    Another running for VP.

  7. Steven L. Taylor says:

    @CSK: Asa Hutchinson (sp?) from Arkansas.

    1
  8. Scott says:

    @CSK: Larry Elder

    On April 20, 2023, Elder announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election.

  9. MarkedMan says:

    I have nothing to add but that, with the exception of incumbents, the front runner in any party rarely breezes to the nom and frequently falls to pieces. Looked at one way, Trump is an incumbent. Looked at another, he is just the front runner.

    If Trump falters, I think Sununu has as much of a shot as anyone, because the most rabid MAGAs will stay home if they can’t have Trump.

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  10. Mister Bluster says:

    Question: Does a successful, moderate governor stand any chance in today’s GOP?
    Answer: ???

    1
  11. reid says:

    I think I’ve said this here before, but in the few interviews I’ve seen him do, he has been completely underwhelming. I would characterize him as a lightweight goofball mixed with enough rightwing tropes as to be not exactly moderate (though it’s hard to say given the party’s far-right march). I don’t see the appeal, especially compared to Hutchinson, say.

  12. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: @Scott:

    Thanks, both of you. I knew it would grow difficult to keep track.

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    If we could hold the Senate and take back the House a Sununu presidency would probably be a good thing for the country. If and if and if. But the first ‘if’ is if he can carry New Hampshire. If he does that it may be a whole new game. He’s one of the few not trying to be a less repugnant Trump, or a more repugnant Trump.

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  14. Mister Bluster says:

    This list on the Ballotpedia web page claims to be “candidates who filed with the FEC to run for president.” in 2024.
    I counted 199 Republicans. I went crosseyed so I did not count Democrats, Independents, American People’s Freedom Party, Nonpartisan, Unaffiliated, Green Party, Libertarian, Other, American Independent Party, People Over Politics Party, American Independent Conservative Party, Peace and Freedom Party, Conservative Party, Independence Party, Concerned Citizens Party of Connecticut, Communist Party, D.C. Statehood Green Party, George Wallace Party, U.S. Taxpayers Party, Independent Conservative Democratic Party, Jewish/Christian National Party, Veterans Party of America Party, Independent American Party, Democratic Socialists of America or the Constitutional Party.

    I think we should go back to the good old days of the Fairness Doctrine when all these prospective candidates would get a voice on the public airwaves*.

    (*Disclaimer: That’s not what it said.)

  15. Mister Bluster says:

    Looking for Mister Edit Key.

  16. Neil Hudelson says:

    @CSK:

    This week Glenn Youngkin dropped what is, for all intents and purposes, and introductory campaign ad.

  17. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    @CSK:

    …that’s Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Chris Sununu, Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie running against Trump…

    They are all lining up in the hope that Trump’s mounting legal woes eventually sink him.

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  18. dazedandconfused says:

    I’m sure of one thing: The question of a sane Republican winning the nomination is only answerable if one with the cojones to try can be found…and does so.

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  19. CSK says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    How many more, I wonder?

    @daryl and his brother darryl:

    Do they know something we don’t?

  20. Gustopher says:

    Does a successful, moderate governor stand any chance in today’s GOP?

    No.

    Could he get his party’s nomination for Governor if he wasn’t an incumbent? I think even that is questionable.

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  21. Senyordave says:

    @Neil Hudelson: I think Youngkin would have trouble carrying Virginia.

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  22. C. T. Weber says:

    At least the fairness doctrine should include those parties that poll among the top ten vote getters from the last presidential election.

  23. James Joyner says:

    @Mister Bluster: Stop bitching about the edit function. As I’ve explained ad infinitum, it’s not organic to the software and is supplied by a plugin that doesn’t play well with the other plugins. Having half your comments either about the edit button or “test” is not going to change that.

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  24. Mister Bluster says:

    Sorry boss.
    But I have to say that more than a few times when I enter TEST in the comment field and then hit Post Comment the EDIT key does appear in that post and the one before it. I then always delete the TEST comment and edit any error in the previous post.
    Are you saying that I should never attempt to bring up the EDIT key even though I have been successful at doing that many times?

  25. Jen says:

    @Gustopher: Yes, I believe he could get the party nomination for governor even if he wasn’t the incumbent.

    In New Hampshire, independents are allowed to vote in the primary by declaring party on day of voting. It drives party loyalists crazy, but has been a factor in moderating the vote somewhat. That, plus name ID from his father and brother means he’s a pretty safe bet and would do fine in a primary.

  26. James Joyner says:

    @Mister Bluster: Every time you do that, at least on posts I’ve authored, I get an email bitching about the edit button and another email with “TEST” in it. It gets old pretty quickly.