Gov. Chris Sununu was in classic form Wednesday as he addressed a friendly New England Council crowd, getting laughs, taking shots at Massachusetts tax policy, and declaring a Trump presidential bid dead on arrival.
As for his own potential White House run, Sununu demurred as usual. But he pledged to be a player in the 2024 cycle one way or another.
“I may or may not run, but I promise you this: I’m not sitting this one out. I’m going to throw my weight behind somebody,” Sununu said.
The New England Council event was held at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, where the NEC co-hosts the Politics and Eggs breakfasts that are a mandatory part of any first-in-the-nation candidacy. And Sununu had a clear message for the candidates and the primary voters who’ll pick the nominees.
“One of the frustrations of America on both sides is we back leadership that either can’t win in November,” Sununu said, adding, “You can’t govern if you don’t win.”
And he repeatedly made it clear he believes former President Donald Trump is on the “can’t win in November” list.
“There’s just no logical pathway,” Sununu said. “Who’s undecided on Donald Trump? Run the logic out. There’s no pathway where somebody says, ‘You know, I wasn’t with him before, but now I’m with him.'”
The four-term governor got a warm reception from the bipartisan crowd.
“You don’t get to be one of the most popular governors in the U.S., especially in a purple state, without being good,” said GOP communications pro Matthew Bartlett. “But this is the best I have ever seen him. He was loose, happy, funny, and an effective messenger.
“I was seated next to someone who told me they were a partisan Democrat, but they found it impossible not to agree with him and like him.”
Not that Sununu held back on the partisanship. He began his remarks by mocking his blue-state neighbors in Massachusetts and their new “Millionaire’s Tax.”
“What the hell are you all thinking?” Sununu asked Bay Staters in the crowd. “Oh, and thank you,” he added. “I’m giving Maura Healey the ‘Customer Service’ Award for New Hampshire because of the insanity that’s going on in Massachusetts.
“As soon as that Millionaire’s Tax passed, our phone is literally ringing off the hook. A lot of high-net wealth individuals and big companies were saying, ‘We’re done. We are tapping out of here.’ And they wanted to come over to the tax-free suburb of Boston, which is called New Hampshire, and take advantage of everything that we had to offer, which is great.”
A new analysis of state tax burdens ranks New Hampshire at number 48, the only New England state, not in the top 20. And a recent report by the Massachusetts Society of CPAs found 82 percent of its members report that high-income clients are seriously considering relocating in the next 12 months.
Sununu praised former Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, whom he credited with “holding back the tidal wave of socialism for eight years,” and called out the “appalling” failure of progressive Democratic governance in California.
“Remember when Democrats were the party that cared about people that were the best on social issues? You walk down the streets of San Francisco or Los Angeles … the tent cities, the homelessness, the absolutely uncontrolled and undealt with mental health and drug issues. Needles everywhere; it’s disgusting,” Sununu said. “It’s a humanitarian mess out there,” and it’s one “you can’t blame a single Republican for” in deep-blue California.
Sununu also had strong words for younger Americans who, he said, haven’t re-entered the post-COVID workforce the same way older workers have.
“Why haven’t young people returned to work? Because we keep giving them free sh-t! We keep paying their rent; they don’t have to pay their student loans,” Sununu said.
Still, Sununu’s overall tone was positive and forward-focused, and he brought his trademark enthusiasm to the event. As for his future, Sununu joked that when it comes to being governor, it may be time to say, “Enough is enough.”
“I’m not saying I’m not running again, but you know….” Sununu said as the crowd laughed. “I gotta get a real job.
“I’ll be sending all of you my resume shortly.”