On the Trail: RNC threatens NH, Scott suggests Sununu as a potential running mate


For the Monitor

Published: 09-22-2023 4:56 PM

The Republican National Committee is warning New Hampshire not to move up the date of their first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

The RNC’s debate committee decided during a Thursday conference call to issue a warning that it will pull a planned GOP presidential primary debate in New Hampshire if the state leapfrogs Iowa caucuses and moves to the top of the party’s nominating calendar, according to sources with knowledge of the call.

Sununu responded, writing in a statement that “the first presidential primary will be taking place in New Hampshire, regardless of what the political power brokers in Washington, DC think,” Sununu wrote. “We will not be threatened, we will follow our law, and we WILL go first. End of story.”

New Hampshire for a century has held the first primary in the race for the White House, and for the past half century has gone second in both the Democratic and Republican nominating calendars, following Iowa’s caucuses.

While the Republican National Committee is not making any dramatic changes to their nominating calendar, the rival Democratic National Committee overwhelmingly voted in early February to dramatically alter the top of its schedule for the 2024 election cycle, bumping Iowa and New Hampshire from their longtime leadoff positions.

According to a nominating calendar proposed by President Biden and approved by the DNC, South Carolina will hold the Democrats’ first primary, on Feb. 3, followed three days later by New Hampshire and Nevada.

But New Hampshire has a nearly half-century-old law that mandates that it hold the first presidential primary, a week ahead of any similar contest. And it’s likely the state will hold its primary on Jan. 23, eight days after Iowa’s caucuses, which are scheduled for Jan. 15. While that would put New Hampshire in non-compliance with the Democrats, it wouldn’t affect the GOP primary.

But Iowa Democrats — who last week voted to also hold their caucuses along with the Republicans on Jan. 15 — are considering complementing their traditional caucus with a mail-in component, which New Hampshire Secretary of State Dave Scanlan warns may make the Iowa Democratic caucuses too similar to a primary, violating the Granite State’s law. The possible move by Iowa Democrats would also violate a new Hawkeye State law that mandates that the caucuses be held in person.

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Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann recently charged in a radio interview that Scanlan was being “over-rambunctious” in potentially moving up the date of the primary. Scanlan returned fire last week, telling reporters that “we’re going to take a pretty hard line on any effort to make a traditional caucus look more like a presidential primary.”

The RNC is planning on holding debates in all four of its early voting presidential primary and caucus states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina — ahead of their contests.

But the RNC is now warning New Hampshire that a jump to the top of the calendar ahead of Iowa would result in the state’s debate being pulled by the national party committee.

Sununu, who’s been very vocal in criticizing the DNC’s push to move New Hampshire from the top primary position, on Thursday evening fired back at the RNC over their possible pulling of their debate.

“New Hampshire gives every candidate an even playing field and can catapult candidates to the presidency. Threatening to take a debate away from New Hampshire is a disservice to every campaign and candidate that has worked tirelessly to earn the votes of New Hampshire’s Republican electorate,” Sununu wrote in his statement, which was first reported by Fox News.

And Scanlan also dismissed the RNC warning, saying it would not enter his decision-making process.

Some candidates viewSununu as potential VP

Chris Sununu – running mate?

New Hampshire’s popular Republican governor made major news earlier this year when he announced that after seriously mulling a White House run, he wouldn’t launch a presidential campaign. Then, this summer, Sununu made more political news, saying that in 2024 he wouldn’t seek an unprecedented fifth two-year term steering the Granite State.

He’s also publicly bushed off speculation that he could serve as the running mate on next year’s GOP presidential ticket, saying in an interview this week on CNN that he has no interest in moving to the nation’s capital.

But that’s not stopping Republican presidential candidates from bringing up his name.

The latest is Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who was asked while headlining the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and the New England Council’s “Politics and Eggs” speaking series whom he’d consider as running mate if he were to win the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

Scott, a rising star in the GOP and the only Black Republican in the U.S. Senate, named a small list of people, including former Secretary of State and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo, former Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, and Sununu.

The senator praised Sununu “a fantastic mind” and said the two speak on “a consistent basis.”

Scott teamed up with Sununu at two campaign stops during his previous swing through New Hampshire earlier this month. Asked by this reporter if he’d discussed with Sununu if the governor would be interested in serving as a running mate, Scott said “we’ve talked, but not about that.”

“He’s super bright. An MIT grad. He’s a very strong, powerful force for good. He understands and appreciates how to grow a healthy economy,” Scott added as he praised Sununu. “So I like to see success stories like his. And he understands federal politics, national politics and local homegrown success stories as well.”

One area where Scott and Sununu vastly differ is the combustible issue of abortion.

Scott is a strong proponent of a 15-week national abortion ban and has lately criticized some of his rivals for the nomination for not supporting such a ban. Sununu has repeatedly touted that he’s “pro-choice” when it comes to abortion. But he’s been continuously knocked by Democrats and abortions rights supporters for signing into law in 2021 New Hampshire’s current 24-week ban on the procedure.

Sununu remains a vocal GOP critic of former President Donald Trump – the commanding front-runner right now in the Republican nomination race. He said he’ll endorse one of Trump’s rivals ahead of the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary. And he’s been teaming up on the campaign trail with most of the GOP White House hopefuls.

On Monday, Sununu joined presidential candidate and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum for multiple campaign stops to talk with voters in Laconia.

Asked about a spot for Sununu in a potential Burgum administration, the governor said “Chris is an incredible executive, both in the public sector and the private sector and certainly any administration – I’m sure – would be thrilled to have Chris Sununu be a part of it, as would the Burgum administration would absolutely love that. But he’s a guy that’s got a lot of job opportunities available to him .. I’m sure the private sector’s calling big time.”

Sununu also chimed in, saying he was “not looking for a job” in the nation’s capital.