(WASHINGTON) — New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced Monday that he will not run for president — in order to keep the field of Republican candidates less crowded so Donald Trump is less likely to be the party’s nominee in 2024.
Sununu explained his decision in a CNN interview and a Washington Post column.
“The stakes are too high for a crowded field to hand the nomination to a candidate who earns just 35 percent of the vote, and I will help ensure this does not happen,” he wrote in the Post.
He told CNN’s Dana Bash that he’d been weighing his choice for months. “We’ve taken the last six months to really look at things and where everything is,” he said, “and I’ve made the decision not to run for president for 2024.”
Ultimately, the fourth-term governor felt confident he could be a real contender in the 2024 race but felt it was more important to focus on Trump’s defeat.
“The microphone afforded to the governor of New Hampshire plays a critical role in an early nominating state,” he wrote in the Post. “I plan to endorse, campaign and support the candidate I believe has the best chance of winning in November 2024.”
By the end of the week, with announcements expected to come from former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, there will be a total of 12 candidates vying for the Republican nomination next year.
Early polls show Trump remains the front-runner in the race, but Sununu said Monday that opposition to him could consolidate if voters had a less fractured field from which to choose.
“I don’t mind who gets into the field. But given where the polls are, every candidate needs to know about when to get out and getting out quickly,” Sununu told Bash. “I can do that calling candidates out saying, ‘Look, you’re in single digits, you have to get out of the race.’”
“I’ll be vocal for folks afraid to take on the president, afraid to understand the party is bigger than ourselves,” he continued. “It’s not just about the vanity. It’s not just to get on the stage and sell books or whatever. It has to be about the party and making sure the ticket up and down is strong.”
“I want more to stand up to help get the base bigger, better and stronger,” he said.
He encouraged candidates to “give a punch, take a punch,” and he wrote in the Post that, rather than fighting over culture war issues, Republicans should emphasize “limited government, individual responsibility and personal freedoms.”
His approach to government remains “give a little, get a lot,” he said Monday.
He wrote bluntly in the Post about what he saw as the risk of Trump being renominated: “Republicans will lose again. Just as we did in 2018, 2020 and 2022.”
Trump has fired back at Sununu, writing on social media this week that Sununu “never lifts a finger to help anybody but himself.” Trump also dismissed a potential Sununu presidential bid as having “ZERO chance.”
Despite being an outspoken Trump critic, the governor previously said he plans to support whomever the 2024 Republican nominee is, telling CNN earlier this year: “I can guarantee they’re better than any of the Democrats.”
In his CNN interview on Monday, Sununu said Trump remained vulnerable to President Joe Biden.
“If Republicans nominate him, then we’re saying a vote for him in the primary is effectively a vote for Joe Biden. I mean that’s ultimately how the math will play out,” he said.
“His messaging doesn’t translate. It does well with a 35% base but loses everybody beyond there,” Sununu said of Trump. “No one is undecided about the former president.”
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