Governor Chris Sununu Endorses Nikki Haley in New Hampshire Primary
Governor Chris Sununu endorsed Nikki Haley in the Republican presidential primary Tuesday night and said he's "all in" on her campaign.
After ending speculation about his own presidential aspirations, Sununu said he would spend time with the candidates and make an endorsement. Before the fourth and final presidential debate, Sununu told WFEA radio that Asa Hutchinson, Doug Burgum, and Ramaswamy "gotta go" and drop out of the campaign.
"Nikki Haley is the candidate with the momentum to win and get our party back on track to delivering conservative victories across the country. She’s answered our questions and built trust. Proud to endorse Nikki Haley for President and hope you'll join me in this movement," Sununu wrote on his personal X account.
Sununu made the endorsement at a campaign event in Manchester and said she is more than "four cool words on a license plate."
“It is the heart of what we are here. It is about low taxes, limited government, local control, individual responsibility, all those things that we cherish and we celebrate in this country. And when I've seen her interact with those, that's what it is, it's that intangible, she gets it," Sununu said.
Haley said it was a great night to be endorsed by the governor of the state whose motto is "Live Free or Die."
"We don’t think New Hampshire can just keep it to themselves. I think we need to be a ‘Live Free or Die’ country," Haley said.
Dems: Haley and Sununu Are 'MAGA Extremists'
In a statement issued before the official announcement, State Democratic party Raymond Buckley called both Haley and Sununu "MAGA extremists who spent years cozying up to Donald Trump" and focused on the issue of abortion.
"Both Sununu and Haley have signed extreme abortion bans with no exceptions for rape or incest, endorsed notorious election deniers like Don Bolduc, railed against crucial programs like the Affordable Care Act, and pushed tax cuts for the ultra rich that left working families behind. Let’s be absolutely clear: there’s nothing moderate, reasonable, or electable about their agenda," Buckley wrote.
Riding Sununu's Popularity
Southern New Hampshire University Civic Scholar and founder of NH Political Capital Dean Spiliotes says Sununu's choice was not a surprise to many who believe he sees Haley as the logical alternative to frontrunner Donald Trump. The endorsement could also help her gain momentum before and after New Hampshire heading into her home state of South Carolina.
"It's just sort of further confirmation that political elites are coalescing around her has kind of the logical alternative to Trump and Trump world," Spiliotes said. She is showing up in polls of New Hampshire in second place, although far behind Trump.
The "average" voter who may not be paying close attention to the campaign may take notice given Sununu's popularity.
"He very popular here. Our entire congressional delegation is Democratic, but he won by huge margins in the last election. So he's very popular not only in his party but certainly among independents. Independents can certainly vote in the Republican primary if you so choose. So for those folks, it's external validation for Haley as a viable candidate."
Spiliotes shot down speculation that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who came to Haley's defense during the last presidential debate, may be under consideration to be Haley's running mate. He expects Christie to continue to at least the New Hampshire primary. The former Trump confidant has said he would drop out if he had a poor showing.
"I'm always very skeptical of these theories about early committal on who's going to be vice president. Things are typically so fluid and change so quickly, there's typically not a lot of incentive for candidates to cut deals with other candidates," Spiliotes said.
Can Halley Top Trump in Polls?
There are two things that could weaken Trump, according to Spiliotes. One would be a moment of truth when it's time to cast a vote. Spiliotes remembers the 2004 Democratic primary and Howard Dean's 20 point lead going into the Iowa caucus. Dean finished in third place behind John Kerry and John Edwards, and it was downhill from there.
"I think at this point the polling every week, that's not going to change. What could change is the actual voting in the first couple of contests. If that plays out differently for some reason than what the polling suggests, then that could shake things up," Spiliotes said.
Trump's legal problems are a wildcard, although his next trial would not start until Super Tuesday in March.
Trump is scheduled to make a campaign stop at UNH's Whittemore Center.