Home » Haley Gets Endorsement From Gov. Chris Sununu Ahead of Pivotal New Hampshire Primary

Haley Gets Endorsement From Gov. Chris Sununu Ahead of Pivotal New Hampshire Primary

 New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu endorsed Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley on Tuesday, six weeks before the state’s pivotal first-in-the-nation primary.

Sununu appeared with Haley during a campaign town hall at a ski area in Manchester, where he said she has shown she understands the values Republicans associate with the state’s “Live Free or Die” motto, including low taxes, limited government and local control.

“This is an opportunity for New Hampshire to lead this country, for New Hampshire to say we’re not looking in the rearview mirror anymore,” Sununu said.

His message for Donald Trump: “Thank you for your service, Mr. President, we’re moving on. This is New Hampshire, and we go forward.”

“This is a race between two people: Nikki Haley and Donald Trump,” Sununu told reporters after the event. “That’s it. Nikki’s spent the time on the ground here, she’s earned people’s trust, and that’s going to be the real decider.”

Joining Sununu, Haley called it “about as rock solid as an endorsement as we could hope for.”

“It’s a great night in New Hampshire, I mean it doesn’t get any better than this,” she said.

The endorsement, first reported by WMUR-TV, comes as Haley angles to whittle away at Donald Trump’s wide lead for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. A New Hampshire poll conducted in November by CNN and the University of New Hampshire found that Haley was in second place, well behind Trump, but slightly ahead of fellow candidates, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

It’s unclear how Sununu’s endorsement will affect the race. While he remains popular in the state, Sununu has faced pushback from more conservative and libertarian-leaning factions within the New Hampshire Republican Party. Candidates he endorsedin last year’s U.S. Senate race and a congressional race lost their primaries to candidates more closely aligned with Trump. The nominees then lost to Democrats in the general election.

Haley said that track record doesn’t bother her.

“What I care about is that he’s won four terms here, he knows New Hampshire like the back of his hand, he’s one of the most popular governors in the country and he’s got a high approval rating here,” she told reporters. “I’m thrilled to have his endorsement.”

Sununu’s backing of Haley comes a month after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds endorsed DeSantis for president ahead of that state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, saying he was best poised for victory in the general election. Trump, meanwhile, has been endorsed by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who heads the fourth state on the GOP voting calendar.

Haley on Tuesday kicked off a three-day campaign swing through New Hampshire, where she has campaigned steadily since launching her bid in February. Last week, she went up with the first ads of a $10 million television, radio and digital buy across that state, as well as Iowa, spending designed to give the former United Nations ambassador an advantage over DeSantis at a critical moment in the GOP nomination fight. 

The ads have called on Republicans “to leave behind the chaos and drama of the past” — a reference to her frequent critique of the “chaos” that follows Trump — as well as her pledge to shore up America’s military strength.

Trump, who has led the Republican field since launching his campaign a year ago, remains the heavy favorite in early polls of likely GOP voters in New Hampshire, although some polls suggest his position in those states is not quite as strong as his national standing.

Sununu, a frequent Trump critic, himself passed on entering the 2024 presidential race, arguing in June that Republican candidates with “no path to victory must have the courage to get out” of their party’s primary in order to stop Trump.

“People are frustrated. Over the last eight years, we’ve had a president that’s more concerned about nap time and we’ve had a president that’s worried about his jail time. We’ve got to be able to move forward. That’s drama. That is chaos,” he said Tuesday. “So we’re not going to as a party bring someone forward that is constantly distracted with whatever nonsense and drama that the former president brings to the table.”

At the time Sununu decided against running, a broad field of GOP candidates was angling for the party’s nomination, something Sununu argued only helped Trump’s effort. Since then, the size has dwindled, a consolidation that in part has helped boost Haley, coupled with momentum from her performance in the four candidate debates.

Trump won New Hampshire’s 2016 GOP presidential primary with just 35% of the vote. He went on to lose the state to his Democratic challenger in both the 2016 and 2020 elections.

Sununu, who is in his fourth two-year term, has stumped with several 2024 hopefuls — including Haley, DeSantis and Christie — as they’ve campaigned in his state, saying he would ultimately endorse one of the three. Of the three, Christie has been by far the most critical of Trump.

“This puts us down one vote in New Hampshire,” Christie spokesperson Karl Rickett said of Sununu’s endorsement. “And when Gov. Christie is back in Londonderry tomorrow, he’ll continue to tell the unvarnished truth about Donald Trump.”

Asked whether Haley has been doing a sufficient job confronting Trump, Sununu said, “Oh, sure.” He acknowledged Christie has built his campaign around criticizing Trump, but said Haley has gone beyond telling voters what not to vote for. And Haley insisted she has explained her differences with Trump, including economic woes she blames on his administration.

“Anti-Trumpers don’t think I hate him enough, pro-Trumpers don’t think I love him enough,” she said. “At the end of the day, I put my truths out there and let the chips fall where they may.”

In November, Americans for Prosperity — the political arm of the powerful Koch network — formally endorsed Haley’s campaign, promising to commit its nationwide coalition of activists and money to helping Haley defeat Trump.

AP News

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