By Kit Maher, CNN
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu makes one thing clear: His vision for the future of the Republican Party does not include former President Donald Trump.
In the latest episode of “Being…”, the GOP governor told CNN’s Dana Bash, “He’s done his time. He’s done his service. We’re moving on.”
Taking it a step further, Sununu — who just won a fourth two-year term in the Granite State by 15 percentage points — said it’s “un-American” to “be a country where the best opportunity for our future leadership is the leadership of yesterday.”
Unprompted, Sununu brought up Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a stronger potential candidate than Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential primary.
“There’s an argument to be made that someone like DeSantis could beat him in a primary today,” Sununu said.
As to whether DeSantis could actually beat Trump, Sununu was ambiguous: “Maybe. I don’t know. I mean, I really don’t know.”
Sununu told Bash he thinks “Ron would be a good president,” but he also feels the same about a lot of other Republican governors.
According to a new CNN poll, DeSantis’ favorability among Republicans and Republican-leaning independent voters overall outpaces Trump: 74% view DeSantis favorably while 63% have a favorable view of Trump.
However, the survey also found that if Trump wins the party’s 2024 nomination, a likely majority of Republican-aligned voters would back him in the general election.
Trump announced his latest presidential bid just a week after the midterms last month. But DeSantis has taken a different approach: saying nothing about 2024 and letting speculation swirl. Several consultants in Florida have said DeSantis likely won’t jump into the race until after state lawmakers meet for their annual legislative session, which points to a May or June announcement next year.
Trump’s first-out-of-the-gate strategy hasn’t quieted chatter around other potential Republican presidential candidates, including Sununu himself.
‘I try to be as normal and genuine as I can be’
In a current political landscape of extremes, Sununu has a simple strategy: He is just trying to be normal.
“I just think I try to be as normal and genuine as I can be. I don’t change my philosophies. I don’t change my principles or what I’m about, but I try to be very approachable, and I try to be very data-based,” Sununu told Bash.
He said he’s “all over the place” on the Republican spectrum, avoiding defining himself as moderate or extreme.
“On social issues, I’m more moderate than other Republicans. On fiscal issues, I’m much more conservative, and I’m very proud of that,” said Sununu, who won a fourth two-year term as the Granite State’s governor in November.
It’s a strategy that appears to be working for him. While he won his race by more than 15 points, Democrats held on the state’s US Senate seat and both US House seats.
The lesson here, Sununu conceded, is that the GOP candidates in those races were too extreme for the swing state. However, Sununu acknowledged he supported them.
One of those candidates, Trump-endorsed retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, lost by 9 points to Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan.
Bolduc, who has consistently pushed 2020 election falsehoods, did not have Sununu’s support in the primary. But Sununu was confident Boulduc would deliver a win for Republicans in the general election.
Sununu admitted to Bash that he “totally misjudged” that race in the midterms.
During the interview, Sununu also recalled a life-threatening health scare he faced just last year.
In early September 2021, what Sununu thought was the flu or Covid-19 turned out to be extreme exhaustion from a bleeding ulcer. He was given four blood transfusions within 24 hours.
“I thought I had Covid, and I was just exhausted all day for about a week,” Sununu told Bash. “And then I thought, ‘Yeah, the holiday weekend of Labor Day of ’21 is coming up. I better go in and just get checked out.’ And sure enough, I’d been bleeding inside all week. I had a bleeding ulcer. I only had about a third of my blood level the way they should be and they had to start the transfusions immediately.”
Sununu said his doctors saved his life.
“They said, ‘Ultimately, you probably just would’ve fallen asleep and not woken up.’ And you would’ve never known because I was bleeding out, essentially. So, it was kind of scary because I’m 47. I like to consider myself like 26, but I am 47,” Sununu said.
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