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New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu not running for president

The Republican governor, who often criticizes former President Donald Trump, has decided to sit out the 2024 GOP presidential race.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu takes part in a panel discussion during a Republican Governors Association conference on Nov. 15, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu in a panel discussion at a Republican Governors Association conference in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 15.Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP file

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has decided not to run for president in 2024, opting against joining the growing field of Republicans.

"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," Sununu, who is serving his fourth term as governor of the key first-in-the-nation primary state, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed Monday.

"We must not be complacent, and candidates should not get into this race to further a vanity campaign, to sell books or to audition to serve as Donald Trump’s vice president," he added.

In an interview with CNN on Monday, Sununu also cited the strength of former President Donald Trump in the polls as one of the reasons he's sitting out the race and urging others to potentially get out, as well, to consolidate support.

"I don’t mind who gets into the field, but, given where the polls are right now, every candidate needs to understand the responsibility of getting out, and getting out quickly, if it’s not working," he said.

As he considered a run, Sununu was one of the potential GOP candidates most willing to criticize Trump. And for a while, it seemed like he was ready to join the field. In late May, when asked about the 2024 race, Sununu, 48, said he wanted the GOP field to be empowered — whether that meant as a candidate himself or a primary referee.

“The money’s been lined up, the support has been lined up,” he told CNN. “There’s a pathway to win. All those boxes are checked. The family’s on board, which is always a big one. I just got to make sure it’s right for the party and right for me.”

The son of a former governor and brother of a former senator, Sununu grew up enmeshed in New Hampshire Republican politics. He sailed to re-election in November, winning by more than 15 points during a midterm cycle that saw Republicans underperform nationwide. He surprised — and perhaps angered — the political establishment when he decided not to run for Senate in 2022 despite pressure from Republicans in Washington.

In line with New Hampshire’s independent streak focused on fiscal conservatism rather than culture wars, the pragmatic conservative governor balanced three state budgets without raising taxes, preserved gun rights, protected some LGBTQ+ rights, and defended signing a 24-week abortion ban despite touting himself as a supporter of abortion rights — a stance that would have been a unique asset or liability.

“Any Republican talking about a national abortion ban is just screwing the party over altogether,” Sununu recently told “The View,” stressing that the issue should be left to individual states.

Fundraising would have been another potential hurdle. 

Though Sununu launched his Live Free or Die PAC earlier this year in preparation for a potential run, he did not have the same war chest other federal candidates do and lacked experience courting national high-dollar donors. 

After calling himself “a Trump guy through and through,” Sununu distanced himself from the former president after the 2020 election, even calling Trump “f---ing crazy” at an annual Washington political dinner last year (which he later clarified was a joke). 

He has said he will vote for the eventual Republican nominee but has dodged whether he’d support Trump by repeatedly asserting that the former president won’t win the primary. 

“We want a winner,” Sununu recently told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Donald Trump is a loser.”

Even though he won't be a candidate, Sununu insists he won't be just sitting on the sidelines. In his op-ed Monday, he said, “I plan to endorse, campaign and support the candidate I believe has the best chance of winning in November 2024.”

Previously, Sununu had said in various cable news interviews that if he did not run himself, he would act as a referee to “make sure that everyone has an open lane” and “making sure we're pulling the levers to narrow things down.”

Sununu has also criticized Ron DeSantis, saying he doesn't like the Florida governor going after corporations, like Disney, for their policy positions. And in his op-ed, Sununu seemed to further target DeSantis without naming him by going after Republicans who are focusing on cultural issues like restricting certain books in libraries.

"We need to expand beyond the culture wars that alienate independents, young voters and suburban moms," Sununu wrote.

Sununu has met with several 2024 contenders in his State House office to discuss how to navigate their own presidential campaigns in the critical first-in-the-nation primary state.

According to two sources familiar with his meetings, DeSantis, former Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence have all sought advice from Sununu.