Gov. Chris Sununu got a “Mark Twain” moment Thursday when the latest Morning Consult poll ranking the popularity of the nation’s governors put him near the top yet again.
Twain famously responded to rumors of his demise with the quip “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” (or words to that effect), and it appears that may be the case for Sununu’s political fortunes as well. After some $20 million in negative ads from Democrats and their allies, and with polls showing most Granite Staters believe the country is on the wrong track, Sununu still ranks as the fourth most popular governor in the country, Morning Consult found.
Sununu’s 67 percent approval puts him behind three fellow East Coast Republicans: Vermont’s Gov. Phil Scott (79 percent); Massachusetts’ Gov. Charlie Baker (72 percent) and Maryland’s Larry Hogan (70 percent).
Some political pros dismiss the Morning Consult polling methodology — the sample was gathered between July 20 and October 21, an unusually long period of time for a poll — but it offers an “apples to apples” comparison. The company used the same methodology at the end of 2019 and found Sununu ranked fifth with a 59 percent job approval.
Sununu’s numbers in this poll are higher than the most recent UNH and St. Anselm/NHIOP results, both of which show a decline in his support since the summer. However, he’s also outperforming all four members of the state’s federal delegation. For example, Sen. Maggie Hassan is six points underwater (44-50 percent approval) while Sununu is + 14 (56-42 percent).
Not that Sununu can rest on his laurels. He’s repeatedly predicted a coming COVID-19 spike this winter, and voter discontent over everything from high gasoline prices to soaring heating bills could certainly translate into an anti-incumbent sentiment. With only 23 percent of Granite Staters telling UNH they expect their personal finances to improve over the next 12 months — and 33 percent anticipating they’ll get worse — incumbents have reason to be worried.
But Sununu has one other advantage: A likely “red wave” in next year’s election and a relatively weak field of Democratic challengers. U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, widely viewed as the strongest Democrat to take on Sununu, appears to be leaning toward another race for Congress. Mayor Joyce Craig of Manchester is another frequently-named potential challenger, but she hasn’t indicated an interest in running in what’s looking like a “red wave” next year.
Other Democrats on the “often mentioned” list for a potential governor’s race include Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington and state Sens. Donna Soucy and Tom Sherman.
“But ousting Sununu looks like a stiff challenge for any Democrat,” left-leaning NHPR reported earlier this month.