On WFEA radio during the 8 AM hour, Gov. Chris Sununu told host Drew Cline it was time for Gov. Doug Burgum to drop out of the GOP presidential primary.
By lunchtime, the North Dakota Republican had done just that.
Sununu was on the air repeating his mantra that, despite months of polls showing former President Donald Trump with a massive lead, New Hampshire’s First in the Nation Republican primary is still wide open. He said he believes the “three governors” — Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, and Nikki Haley — all can be successful in Iowa or New Hampshire and beyond.
Asked about Burgum, however, Sununu had a different take.
“I love Doug Burgum, but I just can’t — I’m sorry. Asa, Doug, even Vivek, you gotta go,” Sununu said, referencing former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.
“Great people — a couple of them would be really good presidents. But that’s not the issue. There’s no path. It’s all about the three governors at this point versus Trump,” Sununu said.
A few hours later, Burgum had pulled the plug.
“Today, we have made the decision to suspend our campaign,” Burgum said in a statement. “Our decision came from a place of caring deeply about every American, and our mission to re-establish trust in American leadership and our institutions of democracy.”
Burgum sat down with NHJournal on Thursday to record “Diner Table Economics,” an extended conversation about his policies on taxes, growth, and the economy. He said he was determined to stay in the race through New Hampshire at the time.
However, Burgum never broke out of single-digits in Granite State polling. Perhaps more significantly, the North Dakotan hadn’t gained any traction in nearby Iowa, either. And Burgum failed to make the cut for the third or (upcoming) fourth GOP debates.
Hutchinson and Ramaswamy remain in the race, though the former also failed to make the debate cut for this Wednesday’s face-off in Alabama.
Sununu told Cline he will make his endorsement “in a couple of weeks,” a timeline he repeated on Fox News Monday afternoon. Some New Hampshire GOP insiders have speculated Sununu would wait for the results of the Iowa caucuses and throw his endorsement weight behind the most viable non-Trump candidate headed into New Hampshire. Sununu appeared to shoot down that idea.
Asked by Cline if his endorsement would be a “Christmas present,” Sununu replied, “We’re not going to wait that long.”
Sununu also laid out his criteria for the candidate he will endorse.
“You’ve got to have the full package. We’re not just looking for someone who can win,” Sununu said. “You have to look at the individual who is going to be the greatest world leader.
“Leadership is bringing this country together,” Sununu added. “Leadership is getting past all this negative angst and nonsense with the policies, with results, and being able to work with the Congress. Maybe it’s a Democrat Congress, maybe it’s a Republican Congress.”
Sununu rejected a candidate who has the best soundbites “or sounds good or gets people all riled up in the moment.”
Several local Haley supporters told NHJournal they believe Sununu’s list excludes DeSantis. “Bringing people together? Working with Democrats? Does that sound like Ron DeSantis?” one New Hampshire Haley backer said.
People close to Sununu warned not to “overanalyze” Sununu’s statements, noting that he continues to say all three (current and former) governors are in play.
The question Sununu will be asking himself when he chooses a candidate to endorse is, “Who’s going to really bring that standard of excellence?” he told Cline. “And we have candidates who can do it. They have good, broad experience. And so it’s just looking at the candidates, what they bring to the table, and what the nation’s looking for right now.”