Governor Chris Sununu isn’t interested in winning the Veepstakes.
Senator Tim Scott had cited Sununu as a possible running mate as his presidential campaign rolled through New Hampshire on Wednesday. But the governor promptly scratched his own name off that shortlist.
“I’m honored and humbled anyone would think of me like that,” Sununu told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday. “But I’m just trying to get the best out of the Republican Party … really no interest in going to D.C. myself.”
Rather, Sununu said his focus — aside from leading New Hampshire through the remainder of his term — is on shaping the future of his party as he plays host to presidential candidates ahead of the state’s first-in-the-nation primary.
He expounded on that vision Thursday night during a keynote Q&A at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. He lamented political polarization, criticized the frontrunners in both presidential primaries, and preached his brand of conservatism, emphasizing low taxes, limited government, and local control while deemphasizing federal abortion policy and so-called anti-“woke” rhetoric.
“The government isn’t here to solve your problems,” he said, calling instead for elected leaders to support “doors of opportunity” that give individuals choices.
Sununu said he hasn’t decided who he’ll vote for in the GOP primary just yet, though he made clear he wants and expects someone other than former president Donald Trump to win the nomination. Would he vote for Trump in the general election, if it comes to that? Sununu dodged the question from Tribune co-founder Evan Smith three times in a row.
“The whole world is going to look so different politically just a year from now,” Sununu said, adding that Republicans will lose “handily” up and down the ballot if Trump is their nominee. “I don’t think he’s going to be on the ticket. I really don’t.”
Sununu was asked about a recently reported quote from Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who’s retiring. Romney told a biographer that a “very large portion” of the GOP “really doesn’t believe in the Constitution.” Sununu disagreed.
“That’s a very, very extreme thing to say. … I think he’s dead wrong,” Sununu said.
He acknowledged extremist elements on both ends of the political spectrum but suggested the overwhelming majority of Americans fall somewhere in between, and he said it’s unfair for either side to demonize the other.
Sununu also rejected the notion that Trump’s candidacy poses an acute “danger” to the nation, despite the former president’s efforts to cling to power after losing the 2020 election.
“Trump is too dumb to be a danger to democracy. Let’s not give him that much credit,” Sununu said, pointing to the violence at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as one example of how American institutions perform well under pressure.
That view is, of course, vociferously opposed by the legal experts, academics, and others who have been warning about not only the damage that Trump’s first term inflicted but also about the systemic harms that could lie ahead.
“I know it’s a scary time,” Sununu continued, “and there’s all this extremism … but let me tell you, our institutions are strong.”
To that end, Sununu said leaders who value accountability and law and order should resist the urge to pardon their political friends. That should apply to Trump if he’s convicted, he said.
“I believe in the courts,” he said. “If the courts find him guilty, he’s guilty.”
This story first appeared in Globe NH | Morning Report, our free newsletter focused on the news you need to know about New Hampshire, including great coverage from the Boston Globe and links to interesting articles from other places. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.