During a wide-ranging speech in Bedford Wednesday morning, Governor Chris Sununu touched on Washington politics, President Trump, health care, millennials, and, almost as an afterthought, confirmed he’s running for re-election in 2018.
With no script in hand, Sununu addressed several dozen members of The New England Council, a regional business group, from inside the wood-framed Bedford Village Inn. While the crowd worked on a breakfast of scrambled eggs and orange juice, Sununu worked to come across as a capable leader, a pro-growth Republican, and to carry out his perhaps most favored role: that of cheerleader for all things New Hampshire.
And with a 62% approval rating and GOP majorities in the statehouse, there was also Sununu, the confident politician.
“I’m running for Governor again…I love my job, I think we are doing great things. And I feel very confident that we are going to be here in a couple of years and I’ll be giving another boring speech a couple of years from now,” he said to laughs. “But at the same time, I tell my team, put your head down, assume nothing. Get everything done you can, as fast as you can, because that’s what people expect of us: to do our job.”
Sununu’s bid for a second term was widely expected. (A spokesperson for Sununu says the Governor has previously stated his intentions to run again, but that the news media hadn’t yet reported his plans. He’ll likely hold a formal campaign launch sometime next year.)
On paper, his prospects for 2018 would appear favorable. Just one first-term governor in the last 80 years has lost a reelection bid in New Hampshire–Craig Benson in 2004.
While Democrat Steve Marchand has already announced his intentions to challenge Sununu, UNH Political Scientist Dante Scala says the biggest threat to Sununu likely comes from Washington.
“When we head into a midterm election, it’s the political party of the President that is vulnerable,” said Scala.
He says that with the President’s approval rating in New Hampshire around 34%, the state’s Democrats should have a clear strategy: work to tie Sununu to Trump.
Without missing a beat, the New Hampshire Democratic Party released a statement after the Governor’s speech that opened with the line, “Governor Sununu will have to run on his support for destructive Trumpcare bills that would have stripped millions of coverage and sent premiums skyrocketing.”
Sununu, for his part, told the New England Council that he doesn’t actually like all the politics that comes with being a politician, though of course that’s something politicians often say. He instead harkened back to the days when a different Sununu served three terms in the corner office.
“It was a lot easier when my father was Governor,” said Sununu. “There was no social media, there wasn’t all this acrimonious political environment. You mentioned the word ‘politics,’ people cringe nowadays. People are afraid to stand up on their values because they are afraid they’ll be judged as a liberal, a conservative, a Democrat or Republican. That’s a horrible way to be.”
It was a somber note in the speech, but he didn’t dwell long on it. Sununu, as he did throughout the morning, was quickly onto another topic.