Gov. Chris Sununu isn’t running for president and hasn’t endorsed any candidate. But he is starring in a commercial.
The Never Back Down PAC, which promotes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ candidacy, has released a pair of TV ads siding with Sununu and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) in the wake of attacks against them by former President Donald Trump.
“Joe Biden is destroying America. And instead of looking to America’s future, Trump is busy attacking Republican governors,” the narrator says before the ad plays a clip of Trump saying, “Your governor, Sununu, isn’t he a nasty guy? So guys like Sununu, you know, who’s a little bit cuckoo.”
The ad then shows DeSantis telling an interviewer, “That is not the way we win as Republicans. The way you win as Republicans is to unite Republicans.”
Invoking Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment (“Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican”) was common in the pre-Trump political era. And Sununu is certainly popular, with a higher approval rating among Granite State Republicans (60 percent) than Trump (57 percent). But is taking on Trump in defense of Sununu a way to move votes in New Hampshire?
“At this stage of the game, I think it’s a good play,” said veteran GOP strategist Michael Dennehy. “Nothing has been working for DeSantis, and he needs something to jump-start his campaign. Going on the offense while defending the state’s most popular Republican will serve two purposes, It shows that he’s in it for more than himself, and it works to curry favor with Sununu, who insists that he will put his full weight behind a candidate.”
But self-described MAGA Republican Bob Burns, who won the Second District GOP nomination last year, sees it differently.
“This is a great way for the DeSantis campaign to help Donald Trump gain votes in the First in the Nation primary,” Burns said.
And longtime Granite State political advisor Tom Rath insisted that “Sununu matters.”
“I am not sure he matches up well with DeSantis, but the point of the ad is that Trump is unacceptable, and Sununu’s reach across the breadth of likely voters is real.”
Trump has not hesitated to criticize Sununu, calling him out during his visit to Windham High School last week.
“Selfish selfish,” Trump said of Sununu. “Well, he ran for president, and he got two points. He ran without running; he didn’t want to announce. It’s a shame.
“We could win this state so easily if we had help from the governor, but we never got help from the governor,” Trump added. “We helped him, but he never helped us.”
Sununu has returned the favor with gusto, repeatedly declaring that nominating Trump would cost New Hampshire Republicans the state House, Senate, and governor’s office.
“We don’t just lose the presidency. We lose everything,” Sununu said.
Sununu did not respond to a request for comment about the new TV ad.
“Trump attacking Sununu can only help Sununu’s reelect numbers!” joked former NHGOP chair Fergus Cullen.
“I think the ad is good. Puts DeSantis on the right side of a 90-10 issue among Republican primary voters. Nice to see DeSantis criticize Trump for something, anything. Now do Jan. 6 and say Trump incited a mob to try to overturn an election and should be disqualified from holding office.
“Too much to ask?”