A survey of New Hampshire Journal readers reveals that with just under a year to go until the nation’s first GOP presidential primary, Gov. Chris Sununu has their affection, but Gov. Ron DeSantis has their votes. At least for now.
While it is not a scientific sample, more than 400 subscribers to the NHJournal newsletter — the number one political newsletter in the state — responded to the survey, offering a glimpse into the minds of Granite Staters who follow politics daily. It was conducted during the same 24-hour period when news broke regarding Sununu’s 501(c)(4) fundraising committee, viewed as a sign the governor is leaning toward a presidential run.
When asked, “As of today, which of the following potential 2024 presidential candidates are you most likely to support?” nearly 40 percent picked DeSantis. Former President Donald Trump finished second with 21 percent, narrowly edging out Sununu at 18 percent. No other candidate was in double digits.
More than 88 percent of respondents said they usually vote in the GOP presidential primary — not a surprise given that was the topic of the survey.
Once again, this was not a scientific sample, but it does reflect the views of many GOP activists and insiders who have told NHJournal on background they believe DeSantis has a strong appeal in the Granite State.
The survey gave respondents the opportunity to offer comments — anonymously– on the potential candidates and the race. Several mentioned that they could support either Trump or DeSantis.
“Trump will not win if he keeps being a bully,” one responder wrote. “I love his policies, and he does not bother me. But I know many wimps that absolutely can’t tolerate his bully posture. Ron DeSantis has my support if Trump stumbles.”
Sununu’s support was more nuanced. Two out of three respondents want the Republican governor to stay in politics, but they were nearly evenly split on what role they want him to play. Asked what their advice would be if Sununu called and asked them about a 2024 presidential run, about a third (29 percent) answered “Go for it, Chris!” Another third said they wanted him to run for a record fifth term as governor (31 percent) and 25 percent picked “Skip the presidential race and throw your support behind another candidate.
“He is everywhere! Keep it going to 1600!” one respondent wrote.
“I like the governor, but we need him here in New Hampshire,” another added.
However, there was also a contingent of respondents — mostly Trump supporters — who dismissed Sununu as too liberal.
“Chris Sununu is the biggest RINO in the state of New Hampshire,” one wrote. “Let’s Go Brandon!!!”
There is an anti-Sununu element in the state party’s base but based on the results of the past two GOP gubernatorial primaries it represents less than 10 percent of the party.
On the question of whether a Sununu “favorite son” candidacy would hurt the FITN primary by keeping candidates from campaigning here, respondents overwhelmingly said no. While 25 percent said it would actually be good for the primary, nearly 50 percent said it would have no meaningful impact.
Sununu addressed the issue Thursday during an interview with Politico’s Lisa Kashinsky, arguing he would have more at stake than any other candidate. “If I didn’t win New Hampshire, I’d be done. If I win New Hampshire, everyone’s going to say it wasn’t by enough.”
Asked by NHJournal if a presidential race was high risk for Sununu (“a poor performance could set back his political career”) or low risk (“He’s a good campaigner. Whatever the outcome, he’d be in a stronger position nationally”), respondents were nearly evenly split, 51-49 percent.
“I would love to see Chris Sununu become president, but I don’t feel like this is the election for him to run in. Maybe 2028 would be better,” wrote one respondent.
Both this non-scientific survey and a NHJournal/coefficient poll released two weeks ago show Granite State voters are far from settled on a choice, even with a former president in the field. Republican primary voters were evenly split on the question “Donald Trump or another candidate,” 43 to 42 percent. Offered a list of options, Trump still finished on top, but with just 37 percent support. DeSantis was at 26 and Sununu was in third at 13 percent.
And several NHJournal survey respondents echoed the message Sununu has been making for months: It doesn’t matter if you win the GOP primary if you can’t win in November.
“I just want someone who can win. Trump is not electable and if he is the candidate, Biden the Turnip can just go hide in his basement and will still win. Please for the love of God, can we field an electable candidate?”