New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is training his fire this week against a regular target — Washington, D.C.
Pointing to members of Congress who have been receiving coronavirus vaccine shots in recent days, Sununu emphasized in an interview with Fox News that “everyone in America is upset to see politicians cut in line ahead of nurses and individuals in long term care facilities.”
The popular Republican governor, who last month was overwhelming reelected to a third two-year term steering New Hampshire, highlighted that he’s “saying what a lot of other folks are thinking and lot of other folks are feeling: that this is not a time for politicians to cut in line. And there’s no excuse for it when every last bit of vaccine right now needs to go to those who are most vulnerable to the virus.”
The governor noted that “when they say 47-year-old quasi-healthy individuals can now get the vaccine, I’ll be the first to step up. But only when it’s my turn.”
Sununu started grabbing attention on Sunday when he charged on Twitter that “Congress has literally done nothing these last eight months. Now they are cutting the line and getting the vaccine ahead of residents in Long Term Care, nurses, and essential workers who stock our shelves.”
“It’s outrageous. And insulting,” he added, as he tweeted out an interview he did with a Boston-based newscast.
Many members of Congress who have received the shots say they are doing it to encourage Americans to get vaccinated. Vice President Mike Pence and President-elect Joe Biden took the vaccine live on national TV in separate events over the past week to show that it’s “safe and effective.”
Such moves come as some Americans remain hesitant. A recent Fox News national poll indicated that roughly three in 10 Americans don’t plan to get vaccinated.
One of the reasons Sununu won reelection by a nearly two-to-one margin over his Democratic challenger was likely due to his high approval ratings on how he’s handled the pandemic in New Hampshire. But following last month’s election, as new cases and hospitalizations of the coronavirus surged in the state, Sununu implemented a mask mandate.
While New Hampshire was the last state in New England to require mask-wearing, some on the far right were still furious. A handfull of conservative state lawmakers briefly and unsuccessfully tried to launch a move to impeach the governor, and small protests against the mask mandate have been held nearly each week outside his private home.
For Sununu, the criticism of Congress comes naturally. He’s long treated them as punching bags.
“I just don’t think Republicans or Democrats in Washington have their heads on straight. They get in this bubble, they get very disconnected to what’s happening on the ground with their constituents,” he emphasized in a radio interview with week on the program “New Hampshire Today.” “They’ve got to go.”
Asked how he’d rate New Hampshire’s all-Democratic congressional delegation, the governor answered, “I don’t think they’re doing a good job at all.”
But there’s a chance Sununu may make a bid to join them.
Senate Republican leaders, seeking an opportunity to go on offense when they’ll mostly be playing defense in the 2022 battle for the chamber, have their eyes on New Hampshire, where Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan – a former two-term governor – is up for reelection in the perennial battleground state.
“I’m not ruling anything out,” Sununu said in the radio interview. “But I’ll tell you, going down to Washington to be part of that mess is nothing I’d necessarily look forward to right now, that’s for sure.”
Sununu told Fox News that he wouldn’t have a decision on his political future in “the near future. I really don’t have any set timetable.”
Pointing to his continued efforts to combat the coronavirus, and upcoming negotiations to hammer out the state’s next two-year budget, he said, “We’ve got a lot of things I have to deal with over the next three or four months.”
Even though he’ll likely face plenty of pressure from national Republicans in the coming months, it’s doubtful Sununu would make a decision until the upcoming state legislative session is over and the budget is passed and signed, which will not happen until June at the earliest.
“Not until well into 2021,” Sununu said when asked again about his timetable. “And we’ll look at all aspects of the political opportunities or private opportunities, whatever it might be.”
Sununu has often said he is a better fit as an executive than a lawmaker. So would he have any national aspirations in 2024, when the next GOP presidential nomination will be up for grabs?
“I’m not thinking of any of that right now. People have asked about that. There’s been some serious consideration from others about that stuff. But given the weight of what we’re dealing with day to day, I haven’t thought about that,” the governor said. “Maybe those cards will come into play down the road but it’s nothing I’m even thinking about right now.”
Sununu, a supporter of President Trump, has built a strong ties with Pence the past four years. But as a GOP governor in a purple state, he’s also been known to disagree at times with the president and his administration.
With Trump soon to depart the White House, the Republican Party will be entering a new phase.
Sununu, the son of former governor and Fox News contributor John H. Sununu, and younger brother to former Sen. John E. Sununu, emphasized that the party “is never defined by a single individual or single event. The Democrats aren’t defined by Bernie Sanders and AOC, the Republicans aren’t defined by Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.”
The governor argued that instead, “we are defined as the party of opportunity, trying to create opportunities for families and businesses, individual liberties, small government, limited government, low taxes. The party’s really focused on philosophy and if anything, that’s what our party has to get back to in reminding ourselves that we are built around philosophy and of principles and not about individuals or single events in time or singular policies.”
He said that as Republicans, “as raw as it might be that the individual we supported, President Trump, did not win this election, we have to kind of get away from that emotion of it and just move on to remember what keeps us together and the fact that the vast majority of the citizens of New Hampshire and across the country do agree with us on policy.”
Looking to the years ahead, Sununu predicted that “with the right leadership, we can still be very successful in the future.”