NH Gov. Chris Sununu calls surprising midterm results a 'rejection of extremism'

"The Democrats did a very good job of defining a lot of these candidates."

November 13, 2022, 1:12 PM

Newly reelected New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on Sunday described the outcome of the midterm elections, with a stronger-than-anticipated performance by Democrats, as a "rejection of extremism."

"I think the Democrats did a very good job of defining a lot of these candidates before they even had a chance to introduce themselves and then, obviously, you have all this other national stuff happening that I think scared a lot of folks, this extremism that's out there," Sununu, a Republican, told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview.

Sununu easily defeated Democratic state Sen. Tom Sherman on Tuesday, becoming only the second governor in New Hampshire history to win a fourth term. By contrast, the state's Republican Senate nominee, Donald Trump-backed Don Bolduc, lost by a 10-point margin to Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan.

"How do you explain that?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"Candidate quality matters. You know, there's a chance of extremism that I think a lot of Republicans were painted with, rightfully or not," Sununu said. He also said he had no regrets about choosing not to run against Hassan himself: "Look, with all due respect, the Senate's the B-team compared to being a governor."

He criticized the unpopularity of some "policies out of D.C.," like on inflation, but said that voters had other priorities with their ballots.

"What I think people said was, 'Look, we can work on these policies later, but as Americans, we got to fix extremism right now,'" he said.

"By extremism, do you mean the politics espoused by Donald Trump?" Stephanopoulos asked.

Sununu responded: "I think there's an extreme left and an extreme right. In this sense, I think a lot of folks are saying, 'Look, it's not about payback, it's about solving problems,' right?"

A national abortion ban proposed by Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband had underlined the public's concerns, he said.

"They [voters] said, 'Look, enough of this. We have to start putting in folks that are definitely going to come together and work across the aisle,'" he said.

In this July 18, 2021, file photo, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu speaks at an auto race in Loudon, N.H.
Charles Krupa/AP, FILE

"America has been asking for more moderation for quite some time," Sununu said. "There's just, you know, certain parts of the Republican Party that haven't listened so well. We've just got to get back to basics. It's not unfixable."

Stephanopoulos noted that prominent election deniers running in key elections across the country lost their races. He asked Sununu if the party needed to move past that messaging "once and for all."

"We should have been moving on from that stuff immediately," said Sununu, who was quick to break with others in his party by affirming Joe Biden's election win in November 2020.

Questioning elections "taps into an extreme base and a fire that's there with some folks, but at the end of the day, you can't govern if you don't win," he said, adding that some losing candidates "went way too far right in some of their primaries" and "let the other side define them."

Sununu has said Trump should not announce another presidential bid before Christmas, a view he echoed on "This Week" when Stephanopoulos asked if he thought Trump's impending announcement of a 2024 comeback was a good idea.

Sources have told ABC News Trump could launch his campaign as early as this week. The former president teased last week that he'd be making a "very big" announcement on Tuesday at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.

"I think it's a terrible idea for him," Sununu said, citing a desire that many people have to move away from politics during the holiday season. "So now's just a horrible time for big political statements. 'Save that for early 2023' would be my message."

"But can you see any circumstance by which you would support Donald Trump in 2024?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"Not really, because I think there's going to be a lot of great candidates out there," Sununu said.

When Stephanopoulos raised the prospect of Sununu running for president himself, given how prominent New Hampshire is in the primary process, the governor said that he's focused on his current job.

"A lot of folks are talking about that," he said, "but look, I've got a state to run."

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