Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire will not enter the Republican presidential race, he said on Monday, forgoing a campaign that would have tested the appetite of his party’s voters for a self-described “normal” candidate.
He bowed out in an interview on CNN, saying he wanted to be able to have a more “candid, a little more unleashed voice” in the primary than he would be able to as a candidate — particularly in moving the party away from former President Donald J. Trump.
“I want more independents on the Republican Party team. I want more young voters on the Republican Party team,” he said, adding, “I think more folks in the Republican Party have to have that kind of voice, that kind of emphasis of message, in making sure this is about the Republican Party, not just about the former president.”
Mr. Sununu, 48, whose political mantra is “be normal,” is generally considered a moderate. Compared with other Republicans, he is — though he is in line with the rest of his party on many issues, including fiscal policy.
He describes himself as a supporter of abortion rights, though he did sign a ban in 2021 on most abortions after 24 weeks’ gestation; he opposed a bill last year that could have required schools to out gay and transgender students to their parents; and he has been critical of former President Donald J. Trump, though he has said he would support Mr. Trump in a general election.
“I’m conservative,” he said in February. “I’m just not an extremist.”
Mr. Sununu has long been seen as a prime candidate for higher office. He is popular in New Hampshire, where voters have elected him four times — most recently by more than 15 percentage points — despite the state’s Democratic tilt. When he declined to run for Senate last year, he disappointed party leaders who considered him their best shot to unseat a Democratic incumbent, Maggie Hassan. (Ms. Hassan handily defeated the far-right Republican, Don Bolduc, who was nominated instead.)
But the sort of Republican who can win in an independent-minded, blue-leaning state like New Hampshire is not the sort of Republican whom national primary voters have indicated they want. The party’s primary field has so far been dominated by Mr. Trump, and even the candidates running against him have tended not to criticize him too harshly lest they anger his base.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is seen as Mr. Trump’s top Republican rival, has stepped up his attacks on Mr. Trump since entering the race last month. But to the extent that other Republicans — including Nikki Haley, a former governor of South Carolina, and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina — have distanced themselves from Mr. Trump, they have mostly done so in style rather than in substance.
Maggie Astor is a reporter covering live news and U.S. politics. She has also reported on climate, the coronavirus and disinformation. @MaggieAstor
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