New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu isn’t a 2024 presidential candidate yet, but he’s certainly acting like one: touring the country to raise money; sharing his vision for the future to anyone who will listen, and most notably of late, throwing shade at the GOP primaries' presumed frontrunners, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis.
“You don't penalize a private business because they disagree with you politically,” Sununu said of DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor, who recently stripped Disney of its longtime self-governing status in the state after a public dispute over LGBTQ+ rights.
“Culture wars are not solved by the government,” Sununu said. “[The Republican Party] has let the message stray... that's not what we're about.”
Sununu also criticized former President Trump, for failing to address Social Security’s eventual insolvency, as well as failing to sell the GOP’s strengths to American voters. However, his comments were more subdued than some of his previous Trump criticisms.
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“[Trump] has been there, done that. Why go backwards?” Sununu said of Trump’s 2024 candidacy. “We've got a really great product on the Republican side — I just want to make sure that we're out there with the right message, selling it the right way.”
Sununu’s pitch for a possible presidential run — a return to old-school, small-government Republican priorities — hasn’t been terribly successful in today’s GOP, which is dominated by big personalities and battles over cultural issues. But he says there’s still lots of time for voter priorities to shift before the 2024 primaries, and also time for the Republican party to shift priorities before what he warned could be "disastrous" future election cycles.
Sununu sat down to discuss a possible 2024 run and the state of the Republican party with LX News at a brewery in Meredith, New Hampshire brewery. Below are excerpts from the conversation:
Sununu on Culture Wars, Critical Race Theory and DeSantis
LX News: “You've criticized ‘woke cancel culture.’ Where do you draw the line? ...Should people pay consequences for things they say wrong?”
Sununu: “Well, of course. But to the level we see cancel culture going, where people are being canceled for — I don't want to say minor things, but things that should not cancel them... this whole ultra-sensitivity has really taken over our culture and it's not appropriate.”
LX News: “You’ve made it clear, though — you don't believe the government should get involved in that stuff in general?”
Sununu: “Government should be able to speak out on it. But it isn't like we're going to pass a law and fix it all. That's not the way it's going to work.”
LX News: “Where should the government’s line be?”
Sununu: “If there's hate speech or people are being offensive toward minorities, or people are violating the ability of someone to have housing and work and all the basic necessities... of course, you’ve got to stand up. And that's where the government comes into play — worker protections and all that sort of thing.
“But when it just comes to a business not agreeing with you politically on something? ...Let the businesses do what they need to do. Get out of their way. And the market will determine whether the customer wants to keep visiting that business.
“[Ron] DeSantis took up the Disney thing; I (too) have an issue with Disney, I totally get it. But you don't penalize a private business because they disagree with you politically.”
Sununu on Growing Young Republican Voters
LX News: “You seem invested in young Republicans.”
Sununu: “I do believe that as hard as ‘24 is going to be, if Republicans don't understand the generational gap that we have right now, ‘28, ‘30, ‘32 and 2036 are going to be disastrous for the Republican party. You have to start building those bridges today.
“We can get that next generation of Republican voter back on the team, [but] a lot of those younger people are disenfranchised right now... the younger Republican priority is very different than the [priorities] of my generation and above. So let's hear them. Let's see what they want.”
Sununu on Climate Change
LX News: “What do you want to do in terms of protecting the globe and climate change reforms?”
Sununu: “Look, climate change is real. It's happening. I was an environmental engineer — I mean, I lived and breathed this stuff probably more than any other potential candidate that's out there. What we need — and my approach, and I think what America wants — is smart, sustainable, fiscally responsible approaches to climate change, renewable energy, energy prices.
“I would say New Hampshire has the smartest energy policy of any state in the Northeast. You know, my job isn't here to come here and ban stuff. We're here to create opportunities at the lowest cost possible for energy and resources, but also appreciate that we're going to make that transition to renewable energy sources that work for us.... We still need natural gas and fossil fuels to ensure [that] especially families lower on the income scale can still keep the lights on and keep their house warm.”
Noah Pransky is LX News’ national political editor, covering Washington and state politics, with a special focus on young voters. His political and investigative work has been honored with national Murrow, Polk, duPont and Cronkite awards, and you can contact him confidentially at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.