In an editorial in Monday’s New York Times, Gov. Chris Sununu urged Republican primary voters to reject Donald Trump in 2024. He argued that despite the current poll numbers, the former president could be defeated.
“Provided the field shrinks by Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr. Trump loses. He will always have his die-hard base, but the majority is up for grabs,” Sununu wrote. “Candidates who seize on the opportunity and present a clear contrast to the former president will earn the votes.”
It is not a widely-held view among Granite State political professionals or the primary electorate. Polls show most Republican primary voters expect Trump to win, and a solid majority are OK with that. In the latest Fox News poll, 54 percent of Republicans had a strongly favorable view of the former president, up 11 points since the first of the year.
In the new CBS News poll, Trump had the support of 64 percent of Republicans nationwide, and three out of four said Trump’s multiple indictments were a reason they were voting for him in the primary. That echoed the co/efficient poll for NHJournal earlier this month in which 62 percent of New Hampshire Republicans said they would vote for Trump if he were a convicted felon, and 57 percent said they would back him even if he were behind bars serving time on Election Day.
Sununu is undaunted.
“If Mr. Trump is the Republican nominee for president in 2024, Republicans will lose up and down the ballot,” Sununu warned. “According to a recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans say they would likely not support Mr. Trump in 2024 — not even Jimmy Carter had re-election numbers that bleak.”
As for polls showing Trump with an overwhelming lead (41.3 percent lead over Ron DeSantis in the RCP polling average), Sununu calls national polls “meaningless.” It is Trump’s performance in the early-voting states that matters.
“In Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states that will vote in the 2024 Republican primaries, Mr. Trump is struggling. He is consistently polling in the low 40 percent range in Iowa and New Hampshire. The floor of his support may be high, but his ceiling is low.”
It is true Trump’s polling average in the Granite State is just over 44 percent. But it is also true he is averaging a 30-point lead over the next closest contender in the five most recent polls of New Hampshire Republicans.
And in Iowa, a new NBC News/Des Moines Register poll gave Trump a 42-19 lead over DeSantis in the Hawkeye State, the biggest lead in a GOP caucus since George W. Bush in 2ooo, the network reported.
In his New York Times piece, Sununu repeated his goal of getting candidates to drop out of the primary in time for voters who don’t want Trump renominated to coalesce around a single candidate.
“At a minimum, any candidate who does not make the stage for the first two debates must drop out,” Sununu wrote. “Anyone who is polling in the low single digits by Christmas must acknowledge that their efforts have fallen short. After the results from Iowa come in, it is paramount that the field must shrink, before the New Hampshire primary, to the top three or four.”
Ironically, Trump says he will not attend the first two debates. “The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had,” Trump posted on social media.
Sununu sees a winnowed field as a path to victory for Republicans who want to end the Trump era. Republican insiders tell NHJournal on background they aren’t as optimistic.
“What ‘primary?’” one New Hampshire GOP operative quipped when asked about Sununu’s article. “This is over. None of these other candidates can stop Trump.”
In fact, said CNN polling guru Harry Enten, Trump’s opponents may be underestimating his strength, including in the 2024 general election.
“If we see Trump overperform in the swing states relative to his performance nationally this cycle – as he did in 2016 and 2020 – you could make the argument that he should be favored over Biden if the election were held today.”
Sununu said he is pushing forward with his efforts to defeat Trump.
“As governor of the first-in-the-nation primary state, I will do everything I can to help narrow the field. I plan to endorse and campaign for the best alternative to Mr. Trump. As of now, it’s anyone’s for the taking.”
Jason Miller, a senior advisor with the Trump campaign, had a ready answer.
“Hey, Governor Sununu: 2016 called and they want their op-ed back.”