Gov. Chris Sununu is predicting his pick for president, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, will “shock everyone in Iowa” with a second-place finish in the Republican caucuses on Jan. 15.

“We know [Donald] Trump is going to win the caucus in Iowa,” Sununu told a mid-afternoon crowd that packed Game Changers Sports Bar and Grill for Haley’s meet-and-greet event there. “But again, Nikki coming in second place when nobody thought it could happen, that’s going to happen and give her even more momentum.

“Having a strong second-place finish was always our goal. We’ve got that wrapped up, guys.”

Asked about his Iowa prediction following Haley’s Londonderry event, Sununu acknowledged to NHJournal that his forecast  is “bold” and that he’s “being optimistic.”

“But she’s always overperformed. I think she can do it, but it’s not like she has to. We’re pushing the envelope in Iowa, I really believe that.”

Ron DeSantis for President Deputy Campaign Manager David Polyansky responded on social media:

“As @ChrisSununu just said, it is 2nd place or bust for Wall Street funded Nikki Haley in Iowa. We agree. @TeamDeSantis and  @NvrBackDown24 know what’s at stake. Let’s go!”

Trump currently holds a commanding lead in Iowa, polling at 50 percent, according to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is running just ahead of Haley at 18.4 percent compared to 15.7 percent. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has skipped Iowa altogether.

“Christie is great, and Ron (DeSantis) is great, and they had a path and a strategy, and that’s not going anywhere,” Sununu told the Londonderry crowd.

Nikki Haley greets voters at a campaign event in Londonderry, NH on January 3, 2023 (CREDIT: Evan Lips)

When Haley took the stage, she largely stuck with her stump speech, vowing to close America’s southern border, end Chinese influence over the U.S. economy, and reduce the size of the federal government. She also reiterated another core pillar of her campaign: the need for a new generation of leadership at a time when the president is an octogenarian and “the Senate is the most privileged nursing home in the country.”

Haley is 51 years old, significantly younger than 81-year-old Biden and 77-year-old Trump. It’s a talking point that appealed to Colleen Nevius, a retired U.S. Navy captain who was attending her first presidential campaign event.

Nevius made the trek to Londonderry all the way from Windham, Maine.

“I’ve never experienced the town hall thing, but I love the idea of the format,” she said while sipping on a pint of Guinness.

As for Biden and Trump, Nevius said she’s “tired of the geriatric wars” and might “move to another country if those two a–holes wind up duking it out again.”

“They’re just not the right people; they ought to be at an old folks’ home throwing egg salad at each other,” Nevius added.

Nevius said she’s backing Haley but noted she doesn’t think Congress or the executive branch should have the authority to ban Chinese products from the American market.

“I think people just need to commit to buying American-made products. I believe in what this country was founded on, and we can do that without that level of interference.”

Leisha Lawler of Reading, Mass., also made the trip to New Hampshire to see Haley. She attended Wednesday’s meet-and-greet wearing a blue jacket sporting the name and number of NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson.

“That’s my boy,” she said while also making it clear that Haley is her girl when it comes to the presidency.

“So far so good, she’s a breath of fresh air,” Lawler said.

She drove up with her husband and her kids, who dropped her off at the event.

“I don’t talk to my husband about politics, but today is my day off from work, and I said I just gotta go Wednesday and see Nikki for myself,” Lawler said.

Dan Boisvert, a Manchester, N.H., voter, said he’s still undecided but is leaning in favor of Haley.

“We’re happy with all of the things she’s saying, but it’s going to be hard to accomplish everything,” he said.

Boisvert said the current situation in the Middle East is his biggest concern as a voter.

“Biden has screwed that up so badly, as far as I’m concerned, that I don’t know how we can recover from our failures there,” he said. “It’s going to take years, but it sounds to me that having been a part of the U.N. helps with Haley’s vision.”

Haley served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from January 2017 through December 2018.

Boisvert said her experience is encouraging to him because “she knows the players involved.”

Boisvert added he tried to attend Haley’s Tuesday night town hall at the Wentworth By The Sea Country Club in Rye but was turned away at the door due to the capacity crowd.

“And I’m a member!” Boisvert said.

“I wasn’t happy about that, so maybe Nikki can do something about it,” he joked.