Popular New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu will be on the campaign trail Tuesday with Gov. Ron DeSantis, raising questions about the state of the Florida Republican’s candidacy and speculation that Sununu may be thinking about an endorsement.
With a campaign day that kicks off early Tuesday morning at the Red Arrow Diner in Londonderry and finishes with a town hall in Rye, DeSantis will get the full Sununu treatment. And Granite State Republicans tell NHJournal that, as his support continues to slide, the Florida governor needs all the help he can get.
“Ron DeSantis is probably the candidate who has hurt himself the most so far in this primary,” one New Hampshire GOP insider told NHJournal Monday. “He had the most potential; now he has the most to lose.”
Could Sununu’s endorsement turn that around? And is the New Hampshire governor ready to jump into the race?
Sununu has made no secret that he intends to make an endorsement with the goal of helping a non-Trump Republican with the First in the Nation primary. Last week, he told NHJournal he is currently focused on the third GOP debate on November 8 in Miami, implying the candidates’ performances in that contest could significantly impact his decision.
“I think the third debate is going to be very impactful,” Sununu said. “It could be [just] four or five people on the stage, which gives all those candidates much more time to interact with each other, much more time to get into another level of detail on policy positions, on differentiation. I think it’s clear Trump isn’t going to be on the stage. So I think it’s incumbent upon all of them to define themselves against, to show some separation [from Trump].”
Sununu’s decision to spend an entire day with the candidate still viewed by many Republican insiders as the most viable Trump challenger in the race could be seen as a signal. But Greg Moore, state director of Americans for Prosperity in New Hampshire, said not to read anything into Tuesday’s campaign swing.
“New Hampshire governors have always been ambassadors for the First In The Nation primary. That’s a critical part of the job. While I have no doubt that Gov. Sununu and Gov. DeSantis enjoy their friendly rivalry about who has the freest state in the nation – it’s New Hampshire, by the way – I’d say it’s premature to read too much into the two governors hanging out.”
Polls consistently show Sununu is the most popular elected official in New Hampshire. A recent NHJournal poll of swing voters (those who have voted in both a GOP and Democratic presidential primary) found he was viewed favorably by 56 percent of them and unfavorably by just 28 percent. That was far better than the Trump and Biden 33/57 percent.
New Hampshire radio host Jack Heath insisted on Monday’s show, “If Chris Sununu really spent a month going after Trump, really making the case hard, I think it could make a difference.” But he acknowledged many political professionals don’t agree.
Even Sununu has acknowledged endorsements have a limited impact on Granite State voters.
“I’ll campaign as hard as I can for the candidates I endorse. But we’re in a state like New Hampshire where endorsements only mean so much because our citizens are smart,” Sununu said. “They’re active voters; they have their own opinions and their own beliefs on things, and they’re going to act accordingly.”