New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu spent about 15 minutes on live television Thursday morning for a five-on-one interview with the hosts of ABC’s “The View,” who asked about his political perspective in light of his potential presidential candidacy.
Sununu, a Republican, struck a mostly conciliatory tone as he advocated for his brand of fiscal conservatism and argued that his party should build a big tent and focus on the future.
“I want independents to get on the Republican team. I want young voters to get back on. Because it’s not about just the culture war,” he said. “They don’t care about that as much. They want limited government, local control, low taxes, individual responsibility.”
Sununu drew praise from the Republican on the panel, Alyssa Farah Griffin, who lauded his leadership and popularity. And he kept it chummy with the more liberal hosts. Sunny Hostin lauded his proclamation for Black History Month, and Joy Behar compared his communication style to that of the current president, a Democrat.
“You sound like Joe Biden a little bit,” she said.
“I’m awake, Joy, come on,” Sununu replied with a laugh.
“Don’t say that too loud,” Whoopi Goldberg chimed in, “because your people don’t like hearing that somebody is awake and paying attention.”
Some of his allies had questioned the strategic value of Sununu’s appearance on “The View,” since the show generally isn’t seen as an ideal venue for reaching Republican primary voters.
Nathan Shrader, a politics professor at New England College in Henniker, said Sununu surely knew he would get uncomfortable questions on “The View.” Still, the governor was relatively well-received by the panel, he said.
“I have seen other politicians who lean to the right who seem to struggle a little more,” Shrader said. “The governor’s style is very conversational, and I think he has a ton of energy and enthusiasm, and I think that that won him some respect among the panel.”
But there was one question, Shrader said, that Sununu didn’t handle effectively: the one about former president Donald Trump, the current GOP frontrunner.
Hostin noted that Sununu has said he voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 and would do so again in 2024 if Trump wins the Republican nomination. She asked why Sununu would still vote for someone who was twice impeached while in office and could soon be criminally indicted twice as well.
“Why would you vote for something that is the very antithesis of your beliefs?,” she asked.
Sununu started to respond: “A couple of things,” he said. “First, he’s not going to be the nominee. He’s really not.” But as the hosts began to press him, Goldberg halted the conversation to take a commercial break. After that, Sununu reiterated his claim that Trump is bound to lose the primary and is incapable of winning the general election.
“It’s got to be someone other than Trump because, mathematically, there’s no way,” he said, without addressing the question.
Shrader said Sununu’s response was unpersuasive.
“That is not a good answer,” he said. “That sounds like the ultimate cop-out to me. Because Donald Trump is probably going to be the nominee.”
To continue saying that Trump won’t win the primary — as Sununu has in multiple interviews — is “wishful thinking” unmoored from the political signals that currently point to Trump’s frontrunner status, Shrader said. If the governor is going to stake out an anti-Trump position, he’ll need a more coherent answer to justify voting for him in the general election, he added.
Sununu, who has signaled he’s likely to launch a formal presidential campaign, passed up an opportunity to mock Trump’s top rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who declared his own candidacy Wednesday with a glitch-riddled campaign launch event on Twitter.
“I want all Republicans to do well,” Sununu said at one point.
New Hampshire @GovChrisSununu to #TheView: "Any Republican talking about a national abortion ban is just screwing the party over altogether and I really mean that." https://t.co/cVclFZQmjA pic.twitter.com/rwhcQBIKA7— The View (@TheView) May 25, 2023
The thing that could set Sununu apart from DeSantis and other GOP candidates — and perhaps alienate him from a significant chunk of the GOP electorate — is the “pro-choice” label he uses to describe himself. While he argues that he’s a moderate who supports abortion rights with reasonable restrictions, Democrats and reproductive rights advocates have cited his track record as inconsistent with the “pro-choice” label.
“There’s nothing ‘pro-choice’ about signing New Hampshire’s first modern abortion ban and putting thousands of Granite State women’s reproductive health care at risk,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesperson Aida Ross.
Sununu signed a bill in 2021 that bans abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy, and he signed a follow-up bill in 2022 to allow abortions later in pregnancy in instances of fatal fetal anomaly.
During his appearance on “The View,” Sununu said the US Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion opened the door for abortion policy to be set on a state-by-state basis, and that is where national leaders should let the policy debate play out.
“At the end of the day, any Republican who talks about a national abortion ban is just screwing the party over altogether,” he said, “and I really mean that.”
Steven Porter can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterporter.