On Media Blitz, Sununu Talks Up N.H. & Trump; Disses Shaheen & Other States

May 9, 2019

Gov. Chris Sununu paid a whirlwind visit to New York City this week. He hit a few reliable tourist spots: Times Square, the 9/11 Memorial. But much of his time was spent on a marathon series of appearances on the national media circuit.

 

There were interviews on CNBC’s Squawk Box, a sit-down on David Webb's SIRUS XM show, and multiple Fox News appearances.

 

Or, as Sununu put it in a tweet, “a full day of media hits promoting NH!”

Sununu's remarks were a blend of braggadocio ("I could fix Connecticut in about 20 minutes") and policy talk ("I don't have a sales tax, I don't have an income tax"), laced with a steady supply of #603pride. 

"The businesses coming out of New York and Connecticut and up to New Hampshire, it’s phenomenal," he said on Squawk Box. “So, yeah, I come and poach businesses all the time.”

Confirming those boasts, however, is difficult.

Citing confidentiality, Sununu's office declined to identify a single business he had "poached" from New York or Connecticut, or any other state. But Sununu himself was quick to share his basic sales pitch to the CNBC audience.

"It's about promoting what you have,"  he said. "Let's cut to the chase: We have a very high per-capita income, the lowest unemployment, the lowest poverty rate." 

Still, nobody - not even the governor - would claim New Hampshire is perfect.

"There is a long way to go," Sununu said when asked on CNBC about the state's opioid epidemic. He said "new systems," hard work, and help from Washington would get New Hampshire out of the crisis sooner than other states.  But even when talking about drug addiction, Sununu managed to find something to crow about.

"I advocated very strongly to the president and the administration, and we got a bigger increase in our grant than any other state," Sununu told CNBC. 

That wasn't Sununu's only reference to President Trump during his New York media tour. He praised what he called Trump's ability to connect with voters "on a gut level." And he predicted the president would carry New Hampshire in the 2020 election.

Indeed, elections were on the governor's mind in New York. Sununu has acknowledged he's considering a challenge to Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in her bid for re-election next year. Asked about his specific plans for 2020, Sununu declined to offer a clear answer, but expressed plenty of confidence in his own political skills.

"Is there a lot of folks asking me to run for the Senate? You bet," Sununu told the Fox News Radio show Benson & Harf. "Could I win? Without a doubt."

"People want a change, they really do," Sununu went on. "She's really jumped the shark in terms of putting New Hampshire first. That ship has long sailed with Jeanne Shaheen."

Before he faces voters in 2020, of course, Sununu has to wrap up his work at the State House this year. He told Fox Business host Trish Regan that he'll veto a bill creating a Democratic-sponsored paid family leave program, funded by a payroll deduction. 

"They're putting an income tax on my desk," Sununu said. "I can't wait to get home and veto it with pride."

It's unclear what purpose Sununu hopes this press blitz will serve. Was it a trial balloon for a run for national office? A bid for campaign donations from cable news viewers?

A spokesman for the governor said the trip was official state business, and included no meetings with donors. In any case, it's unlikely to win him any goodwill with Democrats as he enters the final stretch of the legislative session.

But if there's one constant with this governor, it's that he wastes no opportunity to brag about New Hampshire's exceptionalism, as he chooses to define it.

"I'm the governor," Sununu told the Squawk Box hosts. "I always tell the truth."