MANCHESTER, N.H. – Governor Chris Sununu told New England business leaders Wednesday there’s no pathway for former president Donald Trump to win the 2024 presidential election, and criticized Republican messaging for alienating independent and young voters.
“He’s not going to win,” Sununu said in an address to the New England Council hosted by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. “He didn’t win in 2020. He caused a lot of seats to be lost that we should have won in ‘22.”
Sununu said Americans have already decided whether they support Trump or not, leaving “no pathway” for the former president to win back voters or states that have previously opposed him. Sununu urged Republicans to back a candidate who can win and criticized Trump for failing to deliver during his time in office on a variety of issues including border security, immigration reform, health care reform, and fiscal conservatism. He said Trump’s anti abortion stance would work against him, too, calling it “horrible messaging and horrible politics.”
Recent polling in New Hampshire shows that Trump is still the frontrunner, with support from 42 percent of likely primary voters. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis follows with 29 percent, and Sununu at 14 percent, according to a poll released last week by the Saint Anselm College Survey Center at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.
Some political observers believe Trump’s indictment could bolster his campaign in New Hampshire. Sununu agreed with that assessment, blaming Democrats for amplifying Trump through his indictment. “They’ve thrown gasoline on the fire of his prospects in terms of being president again,” he said.
Many in the audience of around 200 were wondering about Sununu’s own plans regarding the presidency. “People want to hear what Sununu has to say about his future,” said Patrick Duffy, a Manchester business consultant.
Sununu remained coy about the possibility of running for president, although he indicated that he is not planning to run for governor again. He’s currently serving his fourth term. But his message and emphasis on national politics have left observers questioning whether he’ll launch his own campaign — a decision he said he’d make over the summer and no later than Aug. 1.
“He’s a presidential candidate,” Senator Lou D’Allesandro, a Manchester Democrat, told the Globe after Sununu’s remarks Wednesday. “He’s thinking well beyond New Hampshire at this point. That speech totally indicates it.”
Sununu promoted a centrist approach of working across the aisle and called closely divided government at the state and federal level a “huge opportunity to shun the extremes.”
“All that does is say we’re not going to let crazy get through anymore,” he said.
But he said Republican messaging has been missing the mark and failing to attract independent and young voters to the party. He said Republicans shouldn’t focus exclusively on wokeness and cancel culture.
“We’ve got a great product on the Republican side,” he said. “We are awful at advertising, branding, and messaging. We’re just the worst. And what I’m trying to do across the country is bring independents back on board, disenfranchised young voters back on board. … They don’t like what they’re seeing from top level leadership and the messaging there,” he said.
D’Allesandro said Sununu will have to create the center he’s describing, because neither the left nor the right have done so. But he added that he believes that approach will succeed in drawing independent voters.
This article has been updated to clarify that Sununu has not indicated that he will run for governor again.