New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has emerged as one of GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s biggest fans. But Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel?
Not so much.
Sununu told WFEA radio’s Drew Cline Thursday morning that, despite losing to Donald Trump 54 to 43 percent, he sees Haley’s Granite State performance as a success.
“If you had told me when I first endorsed Nikki Haley that every other candidate was going to get wiped out of the race, and she was going to guarantee herself second place — that she was going to surge and actually challenge Trump here — that’s phenomenal.”
Sununu also dismissed talk of Haley dropping out (“We’ve only voted in two states”) and said he expects to stump for her in South Carolina.
“I don’t have any plans to, but I imagine I’ll be down there,” Sununu said when asked about traveling to South Carolina. “I don’t have a trip planned, but I’m sure I’ll do down and help her any way she wants.”
On the Jack Heath radio show later that morning, Sununu had harsh words for RNC Chair McDaniel and her public call for Haley to quit the race. “We need to unite around our eventual nominee, which is going to be Donald Trump, and we need to make sure we beat Joe Biden,” McDaniel said Tuesday night.
“She’s an idiot,” was Sununu’s response on Heath’s radio show.
“The fact that she’s basically taking sides when the race has just begun, I can only imagine the fear of God Trump put into her in a conversation on election night. She looked like a scared puppy dog.”
The RNC will also be taking up a resolution offered by Trump ally David Bossie declaring him the “presumptive nominee.”
“All evidence negates the possibility of a mathematical path forward to the 2024 Republican nomination by any candidate other than President Trump, our presumptive nominee,” the resolution reads in part.
Haley’s campaign pushed back in a press release:
“First, Donald Trump threw a temper tantrum in New Hampshire on Tuesday night. Now, Trump’s establishment lackeys are pushing for a toothless resolution to deny millions of Republican voters from having a say in the presidential contest.”
Sununu told Heath there is still a path forward, though he admits “beating Trump is tough.”
Still, South Carolina’s open primary system allows Democrats to vote in the GOP contest, which could help Haley’s performance in the Palmetto State.
Sununu called independents and non-Trump voters “the sweet spot” for Haley’s campaign. And getting those votes isn’t a problem, Sununu noted, because “South Carolina [is] more flexible with voting than New Hampshire is… You can be a Democrat in South Carolina and just walk in the door [of the Republican primary] and vote. That’s just the way they do it.”
About six percent of voters in the New Hampshire GOP primary identified as Democrats, and 86 percent of those voters backed Haley. Another 4,695 wrote in Haley’s name in the New Hampshire Democratic primary.
Because South Carolina doesn’t have voter registration by party, every voter is the equivalent of an “undeclared” voter in New Hampshire. The only restriction is that voters may only vote in one party’s primary per election.
Sununu also pointed out that many of the Super Tuesday states also have “either a semi-open or open primary system. So there’s a lot of opportunity there, to be sure.”
Trumpworld immediately reacted to Sununu’s statement.
Karoline Leavitt, national spokesperson for the Trump campaign, posted on social media: “‘Republican’ Governor once again calls on Democrats to vote for Nikki Haley in a Republican Primary!”
Asked by Cline about whether Haley plans to stay in the race until the Republican National Convention in July, Sununu said the campaign has a more short-term focus.
“Right now, it’s all about South Carolina and planning for Super Tuesday. If you’re thinking about anything beyond that for more than two seconds, you’re wasting your time.”
As for Trump’s threats against people who donate to Haley even as he’s pledging to unite the party, Sununu said, “Is anyone really surprised? This guy’s so full of crap, he just is.”