New Hampshire Democrats pounced on Gov. Chris Sununu’s comments on a conservative podcast bragging about “signing an abortion ban” Thursday, even as pro-life Granite Staters called out the governor for breaking a 2016 campaign pledge.
It was yet another sign that Granite State Republicans continue to struggle to find the right way to talk about the contentious issue of abortion.
While in Washington, D.C. this week, Sununu was an in-studio guest on the Three Martini Lunch podcast hosted by National Review’s lead political reporter Jim Geraghty and Radio America’s Greg Corombos. During a wide-ranging interview, Sununu made his now-familiar anti-Washington attacks, denied accusing former President Donald Trump of being “f***ing crazy” (“It was a joke!”), and touted the fact that, “I’m the first governor in 40 years to sign an abortion ban. Republican governors before me never signed that.”
And, Sununu added, “I’ve done more on the pro-life issue, if you will, than anyone.”
Granite State Democrats couldn’t wait to go on the attack.
“Chris Sununu is boasting his anti-choice agenda as thousands of Granite Staters are preparing to lose access to abortion and reproductive health care,” state Democratic Party spokesperson Monica Venzke said in a statement. “In a desperate attempt to gain back political favor with Republicans as he faces primary challengers, Sununu is catering to the far-right, anti-choice extremists of his party. Granite State women cannot trust a word he says, especially when it comes to our reproductive rights. Chris Sununu will continue to lie to us and strip us of our rights for his own political gain.”
While Sununu doesn’t face any serious GOP primary challengers, his one announced Democratic opponent, state Sen. Tom Sherman (D-Rye) blasted away as well.
“Chris Sununu has repeatedly shown the women of New Hampshire that he can’t be trusted to stand up for them. As a doctor, I’ve spent my entire career building trust with my patients. There is no greater responsibility because once you break that trust you cannot get it back. This governor has repeatedly broken the trust of Granite State women and is now bragging about it to Washington insiders,” Sherman said.
On the podcast, Sununu was asked what the ideal abortion law for New Hampshire would be. He said it would be similar to what New Hampshire has now. “I believe, as most Americans do, there should be a ban on abortion in months seven, eight, and nine. And we got that done.”
Sununu’s boasting in D.C. about being the first governor to sign an abortion ban and embracing the late-term abortion ban is a significantly different tone from his comments here in New Hampshire. As news broke of the leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion that could overturn Roe v. Wade last week, Sununu pushed his pro-choice bona fides — hard.
“We’re pro-choice, and regardless of where this might go nationally, [abortion] services are going to continue to be provided in a safe and legal way right here in the state of New Hampshire. I’m a pro-choice governor, and as long as I’m governor, we’re going to remain a pro-choice state.”
Sununu has also trumpeted his support for taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire, and his willingness to battle his fellow Republicans on the Executive Council to get it.
Hardly, critics say, “doing more on the pro-life issue than anyone.”
GOP strategists in Washington, D.C. and New Hampshire tell NHJournal that, if he is seriously considering a run for the White House, Sununu’s in a bind on the abortion issue. Every Republican nominee going back to Ronald Reagan (at least) has been pro-life. Even Donald Trump felt the need to issue a list of Supreme Court nominees in advance in order to keep pro-life voters on board.
In 2016 as a first-time candidate for governor, Sununu made his own deal with pro-life Republicans. He wrote a lengthy letter to high-profile social conservative Ovide Lamontagne making a series of pledges to pro-lifers.
“It is important for conservative voters to know that I, too, support many of the commonsense platforms and initiatives that they want to see passed,” Sununu wrote, “including: a fetal homicide bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, a late-term abortion ban, a New Hampshire buffer zone repeal.”
The latter, HB 1625 repealing the buffer zone that opponents say restricts free speech outside abortion clinics, has passed the legislature and is on its way to the governor’s desk. But according to multiple media reports, Sununu plans to abandon his 2016 statement and veto the bill.
In 2016, Sununu told social conservatives, “By voting for me the voters can undo the liberal left-wing agenda that Democrats have imposed on New Hampshire over the past 20 years.”
On its website today, Cornerstone Action has this message:
“If, as is likely, HB 1625 does come to the governor for signature, his veto would be clear proof this was a lie to win votes. If Gov. Sununu can’t stand behind a repeal of an unconstitutional law, what can we truly trust him to do?”