Haley Lands Key Endorsement From New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu

The former UN ambassador called it ‘about as rock solid as an endorsement that we can get.’
Haley Lands Key Endorsement From New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu
Presidential candidate Nikki Haley spoke to a crowd of supporters at the McIntyre Ski Resort in Manchester, NH after winning the endorsement of New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (Alice Giordano)
Alice Giordano

MANCHESTER, N.H.—GOP Presidential candidate Nikki Haley has won the coveted endorsement of New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu.

In making the announcement at the McIntyre Ski Resort in Manchester, New Hampshire, earlier this evening, Mr. Sununu said a little old lady had just asked him if he was going to endorse Mrs. Haley. “You bet your ass I am,” Mr. Sununu exclaimed, inciting a roar from the audience. “We are all in on Nikki Haley.”

Mr. Sununu, who for a short time considered making a run for The White House himself, made the announcement at the first of four stops Mrs. Haley has planned in the key primary state this week.

In heralding his endorsement of Mrs. Haley, Mr. Sununu described the former U.N. ambassador as “not some big government candidate with some big government mentality, but someone that can actually sit in the White House and say how do I put individuals first.”

Mrs. Haley, also a former governor of South Carolina, responded with enthusiasm: “It doesn’t get any better than this to go and get endorsed by the ‘Live Free or Die’ governor. It’s about as rock solid as an endorsement that we can get.”

Matthew Bartlett, a longtime Republican strategist in New Hampshire, told The Epoch Times that he believes Mr. Sununu’s endorsement of Mrs. Haley is going to give her a campaign a huge boost in her polling.

This is one of the most popular governors in America and in a purple state where has the trust of Independents, Democrats, and Republicans, for the better part of 10 years,“ said Mr. Bartlett, who was present when Mr. Sununu’s announced his endorsement of Mrs. Haley. ”This is the biggest political endorsement in the history of New Hampshire.”

While still undecided between Mrs. Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, June Maher, a registered New Hampshire Republican, told The Epoch Times that Mr. Sununu’s endorsement “is a definite influence” on her choice.

“I think it just might be what makes the undecided look her way,” said Mrs. Maher, who came to hear Mrs. Haley speak for the first time at her campaign appearance in Manchester tonight.

“I think Nikki has the same political values as Trump without the mudslinging,” she added.  

Mr. Sununu tends to draw most of his support from progressive Republicans. He leads the only state in the northeast that has a large, conservative base. New Hampshire also has a substantial number of Independent voters, making up about 30 percent of the voter base. On top of that, it is an open primary state, meaning voters can choose their party on Election Day.

With New Hampshire primaries’ fast approaching date of Jan. 23, that leaves Mrs. Haley a little over a month to put Mr. Sununu’s endorsement to work in her favor. As of now, she remains second behind President Trump in most polls, but by a giant margin—more than 50 percent, by some polling estimates.

Last month, Mrs. Haley made it clear that she believed an endorsement from Mr. Sununu would be critical for her campaign, telling a New Hampshire radio station that it “would be big” because Mr. Sununu is also popular around the country.

Mr. Sununu’s endorsement comes on the heels of big financial backing for Mrs. Haley, including a $4 million campaign contribution from NeverTrump billionaire Charles Koch.

How Mr. Sununu’s endorsement will help her catch up to President Trump will play out over Christmas and into the New Year.

For months now, the popular governor, who announced in July that he is not planning to seek re-election, has appeared alongside Mrs. Haley and two of her other GOP rivals, Mr. DeSantis and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie—both of whom have courted Mr. Sununu for his backing, but not as much as Mrs. Haley.

In November at an appearance at the Poor Boy Cafe in Derry, Mrs. Haley put Mr. Sununu on the spot and asked him point blank for his endorsement in front of an elbow-to-elbow crowd.

Mr. Sununu responded at the time by saying he wasn’t quite ready to make up his mind, but quipped it would definitely be either a governor or former governor.

Mr. Sununu also has sung the praises of both Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Christie. He said Mr. Christie, also a former U.S. Attorney, “crushed it” during the third debate and has praised Mr. DeSantis for his “fiscal discipline” as Florida governor.

Not every Republican candidate was hoping to be endorsed by Mr. Sununu.

Last month, while visiting the U.S. Veterans cemetery in New Hampshire, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy called Mr. Sununu a “third rate, C List commentator on CNN,” adding that an an endorsement from the four-term Republican governor, whom he called the “face of the establishment,” would be a “kiss of death” for any GOP candidate looking to clinch the primary nomination in New Hampshire.

His comments came after Mr. Sununu declared the candidate “a poor choice” for president based on his performance during the third GOP debate in Miami last month.

He told CNN Mr. Ramaswamy’s cantankerous behavior was “embarrassing” and told Politico that it proved he didn’t have the “the temperament to handle the stresses of a public executive position.”

Mr. Ramaswamy is the only GOP candidate who has remained uncritical of President Trump, who the New Hampshire governor has expressed nothing but disdain for.

Mr. Sununu has had his own share of edgy outbursts. As the headliner of a recent DeSantis event in New Hampshire, he referred to California Gov. Gavin Newsom with an expletive for cozying up to Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping including launching an eleventh-hour grossly overdue cleanup of San Francisco for his visit.

He also was heavily berated by conservatives for calling President Trump “[expletive] crazy” and saying he belonged in a mental institution at a 2022 political roast in Washington.

In an August New York Times opinion piece, Mr. Sununu also wrote that for Republicans “to win, they must break free of Mr. Trump’s drama, step out of his shadow, go on offense, attack, and present their case.”

The feeling between Mr. Sununu and the 45th president has proven to be quite mutual, with President Trump declaring during his Veteran’s Day appearance in New Hampshire last month that “RINO Chris”—using the acronym for “Republican in name only”—couldn’t even be elected “dog catcher.”

“I never liked him,” he said of Mr. Sununu in July on his Truth Social platform.

Mrs. Haley, who was appointed to her ambassador position by President Trump, has been minimally critical of her former boss, saying he was the “right president at the right time” in response to a question posed to her during a campaign appearance in September in New Hampshire.

“He broke things that needed to be broken; he listened and brought in a group of people who felt had been unheard, like where I grew up—rural South Carolina. He was strong on foreign policy and getting America’s respect in the world,” she said.

But she also said President Trump was “thin skinned and easily distracted.”

After hailing Mr. Sununu’s endorsement of her, Mrs. Haley went on to lay out her priorities as the leader of the United States. They include freezing government spending until the federal budget is balanced, downsizing government institutions, closing the borders, and replacing President Joe Biden’s catch-and-release policy with a sweeping catch-and-deport policy.

Mrs. Haley also has talked about raising the age of retirement for the current younger generation, getting rid of gender ideology training in the military, and enacting federal legislation that protects parental rights at schools.

Mrs. Haley remains the only candidate to indicate support for legislation that permits early abortion, though she has not signaled a specific cutoff time.

She came under fire when she proposed eliminating the anonymous use of social media and replacing it instead with a full vetting of all users. She has since walked that back and said she would limit that to bots and foreign infiltrators.

“I will always fight for freedom of speech for Americans,” she said during the fourth GOP debate in Alabama on Dec. 6. “We do not need freedom of speech for Russians and Iranians and Hamas.”

Alice Giordano is a freelance reporter for The Epoch Times. She is a former news correspondent for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and the New England bureau of The New York Times.
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