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Moderate GOP governor reveals who he’ll vote for in Trump-Biden matchup

Chris Sununu has long warned Republicans against nominating Trump again in 2024

John Bowden
Washington DC
Wednesday 29 November 2023 17:42 GMT
Biden makes sign of the cross after mentioning Trump

New Hampshire’s moderate Republican governor doesn’t want Donald Trump to be anywhere near the White House come January 2025.

But he still may vote to put him there, he explained to Puck’s Tara Palmeri this week.

Chris Sununu, a fourth-term governor who is retiring rather than seeking a fifth, has long opposed Mr Trump’s candidacy for the 2024 Republican nomination. Among Republican governors, he has been rivaled only by Asa Hutchinson and Larry Hogan in his vocal criticism of the former president, who he warns will alienate independent voters in the general election.

But speaking with Palmeri in an interview for the podcast Somebody’s Gotta Win, Mr Sununu said that if it came down to a 2020 rematch, he’d stick with Donald Trump.

“If it comes down to Trump or Biden, which it most likely will, you’re going to vote for Trump then?” Palmeri asked.

“I’m a Republican,” the governor replied. Explaining his reasoning, he added: “I just want Republicans to win; that’s all I care about.”

The latter statement is a revealing look at the priorities of so-called “moderate” Republicans at a time when their party’s likely nominee (a fact Mr Sununu also conceded in his interview) is facing more than 90 felony charges related to a host of serious allegations, including running a criminal enterprise and illegally retaining a stash of classified US military documents that he also stands accused of showing off to guests. The governor has long been plain-spoken about Mr Trump’s behaviour, and in 2021 said that the former president had “contributed” to the January 6 attack on Congress; he also referred to the rioters that day as “terrorists”.

Mr Sununu’s position is significant not only due to his criticism of Mr Trump himself — the New Hampshire governor has also come out in opposition to the Republican-led impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, launched by now-ousted speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this year in the hopes of placating his caucus’s right wing.

He has walked a fine line as a centre-right Republican in a party that is trending more and more to the extremes. While criticising the implementation of Mr Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill over what he viewed as insufficient highway funds for his state, for example, the governor also issued a stern rebuke aimed at members of his own party’s conservative wing who sought retribution against those members who had voted for the legislation.

The governor has not formally endorsed any candidate in the 2024 Republican nominating contest thus far, but is expected to do so before his state’s primary is held next year.

Though New Hampshire has a reputation of being a somewhat purple state and has a Republican governor in Mr Sununu, it has not been won by a GOP presidential candidate since 2000. Mr Trump lost the state with 46.5 per cent of the vote in 2016, and saw his support drop even further behind Joe Biden in 2020.

On Monday the Republican mayor of Keene, New Hampshire came out in support of Nikki Haley; Ms Haley has been in a fierce competition with Florida’s Ron DeSantis for the second-place spot in the nominating contest for weeks. The mayor, George Hansel, is a known ally of Mr Sununu who campaigned alongside the governor last year.

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