New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu goes all out to stop Trump’s renomination

With election year 2024 now fully underway, the effort to understand what is dividing Americans politically has become even more urgent. For her "America at a Crossroads" series, Judy Woodruff turned to New Hampshire for a look at how popular Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is going all out to persuade voters to stop what looks to some like the inevitable renomination of former President Trump.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    With election year 2024 now fully under way, the effort to understand what is dividing Americans politically has become even more urgent.

    For her America at a Crossroads series, Judy Woodruff turned to New Hampshire to look at how a popular Republican governor is going all out to persuade voters there to stop the renomination of former President Donald Trump.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The big winner in Iowa's GOP caucuses this week drew even bigger cheers from his supporters, there and across the country. But among those Republicans who don't want the former president back in the White House, it brought dread.

  • Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH):

    OK, now we got a binary choice, and with that one-on-one race going in…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And a determination to derail the Trump train.

  • Gov. Chris Sununu:

    The only candidate that has set the expectations that he's absolutely going to win every state is Trump.

    So, if he doesn't win one of these states, that would be a massive upset, I think a shocker and really crack the national narrative, if you will, that it's just Trump's party and he's just going to win.

    If she's Tom Brady, I'm Jerod Mayo. I guess I'm the new guy on the scene. I'm directing it a little bit, and we're going to deliver a big win.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    New Hampshire's four-term Republican Governor Chris Sununu has thrown himself into an effort to persuade his constituents that the path to heal the country's polarization and get back to normalcy begins with defeating Trump and handing a win to former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

  • Gov. Chris Sununu:

    Nikki, this is Joe.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    As a longtime political reporter, I was eager to get to New Hampshire myself this week to listen to voters and follow Governor Sununu around.

    But thanks to a fall I took last week, I can't travel for a while, so I ended up speaking with the governor remotely.

  • Gov. Chris Sununu:

    But you have got to get behind somebody who can actually get stuff done. It's not who agrees with you on policy. We all agree on a lot of the policy. But who can actually achieve the goals? Who can actually secure the border? Who can bring down inflation? Who can be fiscally responsible?

    Trump didn't do any of that. Nikki can do it, right? And so that's why I think you're seeing her numbers surge more than any other. It's kind of like the emperor has no clothes. Once people realize it, they go, oh, wait a minute, we have a choice here.

    He flies in, tells everyone what he thinks, and flies out. That ain't campaigning. That's a losing strategy every time.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Governor Sununu argues that not only is Haley better for the country; she can help reduce its partisanship.

    America is as divided as we have seen it in a very long time. Do you think this election will make that worse or will have any effect on the polarization? How do you see that?

  • Gov. Chris Sununu:

    If we elect the wrong person, it gets worse. And if we elect the right person, it gets better. If you go with the Trump path, obviously, it just gets — it's like throwing gasoline on a firework. It's just going to get so much worse.

    We have a packed house out here in Hollis.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's a feeling voters echoed outside of Haley events this week.

  • Lorraine Arbore, New Hampshire Voter:

    I mean, he's campaigning and back in court and campaigning. But, I mean, what does that say about our leadership, our morals, our integrity, our just…

  • Jim Tollner, New Hampshire Voter:

    I think the last few presidencies have done that all the way back to Obama, you know? And I think Trump put a huge divide in the country just by his rhetoric and the way he — the lack of respect that he has for people. That's the divide.

  • Mark Croteau, Haley Campaign Volunteer:

    People are afraid to put a lawn sign in front of their house and so — and publicly declare that they support somebody other than Donald Trump. People seem to be afraid of that. And I think we all know why.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How much genuine support do you think there is out there in the country and in your state for former President Trump?

  • Gov. Chris Sununu:

    The genuine support is not strong. It's that 35 percent that we have always talked about, that really base voter, 35 percent. That is strong. That's there. And they will come out and they will walk through walls for the former president, because they feel like he shares their anger.

    And that's all it is. There's no policy connection there. It's anger. It's frustration. Most of the others are kind of — they kind of go along to get along a little bit. They say, well, he's going to be the guy, so we will just get behind him. We will get behind him because we don't want to get pushed back on social media or have to explain all this stuff.

    For some folks, it's just become the easier path.

    Nikki Haley (R), Presidential Candidate: We can't have a country in disarray and a world on fire and go through four more years of chaos. We won't survive it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In New Hampshire this week, Haley continued to argue that it's time to move on from Trump.

  • Nikki Haley:

    But, rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him. You know I'm right. Chaos follows him.

  • Gov. Chris Sununu:

    I mean, she's all about small business.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A point that resonated with at least one Trump supporter who heard Haley for the first time that night.

  • Michael Eldridge, New Hampshire Voter:

    I ain't going to lie. I have always been a Trump supporter. And what she's talking about, about the chaos thing, I feel like it may continue, not so much on his part, because I don't believe it's 100 percent him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    When you talk about the things that he didn't get done as being one of the main reasons you don't support him, when she's asked that question, she talks about the chaos and the destruction that follow him.

    But my question is, to what extent is he responsible for that chaos and destruction?

  • Gov. Chris Sununu:

    Almost all of it, I mean, pretty much all — I mean, all of it at its core, right? I mean, let me take a step back. A lot of folks think the chaos and all that is about January 6 and election denial. That's just a piece of it.

    And those issues actually don't — aren't really coming into the mind-set of the voter. Most Republican primary voters don't consider the January 6 or the election denial — regardless of what they think about it, they're not voting on that. But there is chaos and disruption around him.

    But that's the way he's been kind of his whole life, right? Now, it got exacerbated as he hit the national stage. It got exacerbated as he got more frustrated with what he wasn't getting done in Washington, D.C., the outburst, the attacks on the media, the attacks on anybody who was against him, as opposed to saying, hey, we can disagree, but let's find a path forward. Let's find those pieces we agree on.

    He didn't have those skills. He lacks skills of getting stuff done in the public sphere, because you have to negotiate. You have to work with folks. You have to find some sort of common ground.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Governor, I hear you saying that former President Trump didn't do what he said he was going to do when he was in office. You have talked about how divisive he is. You have talked about — you said a minute ago he's not a Republican, he's not a conservative.

    But you have also said you would support him if he's the nominee of the party.

  • Gov. Chris Sununu:

    Sure. Yes, I mean, because the alternative is Joe Biden.

    Look, I'm — what Biden has done, the way he has let down both this country and Democrats — I have Democrats coming up to me constantly that are completely let down by Joe Biden. And just understanding that where Biden is today, with his age, right, that's not a political hit, just physically, does he have four more strong years in him?

    Well, of course not. Nobody believes that right now. There's a lot of things to consider in terms of getting this country back on track and moving forward. I don't think either of them would do a fantastic job, but if I had to go with someone, of course, we're going to support the Republican, because, fundamentally, I'm hoping he surrounds himself with other good Republicans that share a little more of my ability and our necessity to get stuff done.

    I have no faith and Joe Biden has proven no ability to manage his team.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just to be clear, your statement about President Trump, if he's the nominee, even if he is convicted of a felony between now and then, you…

    (Crosstalk)

  • Gov. Chris Sununu:

    Judy, you and I both know that — look, that is wildly hypothetical. He's very likely not to be convicted of a felony. Things will be appealed. This stuff will go on for years.

    My point in saying that, if anything, is, you don't wait for a conviction to happen to stop Donald Trump. Don't wait for some external factor to stop Donald Trump. That's not going to happen. You beat him in the ballot box. That's how you — quote — "get rid of Trump," if you think Trump's a threat or you understand he's not a conservative.

    For whatever reason, you don't want to see Trump as the standard-bearer of the Republican Party anymore, it happens in the ballot boxes. The biggest threat to democracy isn't just Donald Trump. It's people staying home, not participating, believing that their vote doesn't matter, or they don't have a choice or anything like that, that everything's being run behind the curtain.

    That's not the case. Your vote matters. Your opportunity to participate matters. And the more folks that come out, the more change that happens. And that's what everyone's looking for. So let's make it happen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's what Governor Sununu will continue to spend his energies on, ahead of the primary on Tuesday.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," and with reporting from across the state of New Hampshire, I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.

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