N.H. Gov. Sununu targets ‘woke policy’ but criticizes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ culture war tactics
CONCORD, N.H. – New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu agrees with fellow Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that 'we need to push back on woke policy.'
However, in a national exclusive interview with Fox News on the eve of his Thursday inauguration to a fourth two-year term steering the key northeastern battleground state, Sununu said that he disagrees with his Florida counterpart’s aggressive actions as a conservative culture warrior in going after corporations.
The popular GOP governor also emphasized that the Republican Party should 'move on' from former President Trump and does not believe the former president can win back the White House in 2024. Additionally, Sununu — who cruised to a comfortable double-digit re-election victory in November and has broadened his national footprint in recent months through a slew of cable news and Sunday talk show interviews — shared that 'a lot of folks' want him to run for his party’s presidential nomination next year.
Sununu spoke with Fox News the day after DeSantis was sworn in for a second four-year term steering Florida, after a convincing 19-point re-election victory in November. DeSantis, who saw his popularity soar among conservatives across the country the past two and a half years thanks to his forceful pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions and his full court press in the culture wars, touted in his inauguration address that 'Florida is where woke goes to die.'
Sununu agreed that 'we need to push back on woke policy. There’s no question about it…. the woke policies that are culturally being driven are really driving a wedge through the United States and taking us to a place where we don’t want to be as Americans.'
However, he argued, 'going after private business is a whole different story…. I come from the 'Live Free or Die' state, and private businesses can and should act like private businesses without the fear of being punished by people that might disagree with them.'
Sununu emphasized, 'while I agree with a lot of those issues that Ron brings to the table,' he does not think it is wise 'to necessarily punish private businesses because they don’t agree with a policy or whatever it might be. Those types of culture wars pushing their way into the private sector, that’s definitely not I think where we want to be as Americans.'
DeSantis is considered a potential Republican White House hopeful, and he has seen his standing in early 2024 GOP presidential nomination polls rival and even eclipse those of Trump, who launched his third presidential campaign in November.
Sununu supported Trump during the 2016 general election and again as the then-president unsuccessfully ran for re-election in 2020. However, Sununu has long pushed back against Trump’s unproven claims that the 2020 presidential election was 'rigged' and 'stolen.' He also started stating in early 2021 that the GOP is larger than any one person, which was perceived as a swipe at the former president.
The governor told Fox News, 'you have a former president who’s announced he’s going to run again and he’s not the top contender necessarily. There’s lot of other folks who are going to get in the race. No one is backing out of the race. The party is not galvanizing all around him.'
Sununu argued that the GOP should 'move on' from Trump and that 'there’s lots of other great leaders out there. There’s lots of other great opportunity to bring great ideas and things to the table.'
The governor criticized Trump for failing to 'get immigration reform done, to balance a budget, to be fiscally responsible and disciplined,' and to reform health care during his four-year term in the White House. He reiterated that Trump 'can win the nomination, but I don’t believe… he can win in November of ’24.'
Sununu has repeatedly said he is not ruling anything out when it comes to his own possible White House bid in 2024.
'A lot of folks are coming to me. A lot of folks want me to run. It’s definitely conversations that we’re having,' Sununu shared.
Looking ahead to new state legislative session and the crafting of New Hampshire’s next two-year budget, Sununu said 'my first priority is New Hampshire,' but he added 'we’ll keep having those conversations.'
The governor said there is no timetable for his 2024 decision, emphasizing that there is still a year to go before the start of the presidential nominating calendar. 'There’s going to be a lot of time before folks even get in the race,' he said. 'A lot of candidates will wait to get in. They’ll see where stuff goes. See where we are politically six months from now, or a year from now. Who knows what might happen between now and then.'
However, Sununu has his share of critics.
After the governor raised eyebrows last month by running digital ads in Iowa and South Carolina, which vote first and third in the GOP’s presidential nominating calendar, longtime state Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley charged, 'Sununu’s focus has never been New Hampshire. He has spent his entire career attempting to bolster his national profile, and he’s never had qualms about leaving Granite Staters in the dust to do it.'
The critics are not just Democrats either.
There is plenty of criticism from Granite Staters to the right of Sununu.
One vocal critic, former Trump campaign manager and top adviser Corey Lewandowski, pointed to primary losses last year by candidates in high profile races in New Hampshire and neighboring Massachusetts that Sununu endorsed.
'Every single one lost the primary,' Lewandowski highlighted. He argued that 'Chris Sununu’s standing is not strong enough in the Republican Party in New Hampshire.'
However, Sununu is proud of his record running New Hampshire, touting, 'my inaugural address is… all about the successes we’ve had. The model of how we’ve done it.'
The governor pointed to his to cutting taxes, implementing school choice programs, advances in combating the mental health and opioid crises, and highlighted, 'we’re one of the strongest states in the country…economically. Businesses are pouring in. Families are pouring in.'
In what sounded like a national stump speech, Sununu showcased, 'the process of which we’ve gained our success can absolutely be a blueprint across the country. There’s no doubt about that. One of the reasons folks ask me to travel so much and come and talk to them is they’re fascinated how I’ve been able to get this done with no sales tax, no income tax. Keep getting surpluses.'
Additionally, the governor said his trips out of New Hampshire to showcase his accomplishments will continue, emphasizing that he’ll 'be traveling quite a bit' in the months to come.
Sununu comes from a family with a rich political resume. His father, John H. Sununu, is a former three-term governor who later served as White House chief of staff for President George H.W. Bush. One of his older brothers, John E. Sununu, is former representative and senator.
However, despite his political pedigree, Sununu is not known as a prolific fundraiser, which could sidetrack any White House run.
The governor acknowledged that a White House run, 'does take fundraising because there’s a message, there’s a product, there’s a brand to be sold there. And if you don’t have the means to do it, it’s not going to go anywhere and that’s a waste of everybody’s time and effort.'
Another knock against Sununu that could negatively impact him should he eventually launch a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination – he supports abortion rights with limits.
However, in the wake of last summer’s blockbuster move by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling and send the combustible issue of legalized abortion back to the states, Sununu emphasized, 'I don’t think it’s a driving issue on the national stage…like it was, because it’s not in the hands of the Supreme Court anymore, it’s in the hands of the states. It’s not in the hands of the president.'
He additionally argued, 'Republicans aren’t single issue voters, for the most part. Some are. That’s fine. But for the most part, as a body, Republicans aren’t single issue voters.'
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