Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
Being Chris Sununu; Governor Sununu Not Running For President; Donald Trump Lost His Charisma. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired December 16, 2022 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: What's it like being governor of a critical swing state who won big on an otherwise underwhelming election night for the GOP?
GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): I see it as an opportunity. Where are we going to take our message? What can we do better?
BASH: In a party conflicted about its identity.
SUNUNU: It's hard to tell someone that the best opportunity for new leadership is yesterday's leadership.
BASH: Could New Hampshire's Chris Sununu have a winning formula for Republicans?
SUNUNU: You know the key to politics is? Be normal. That's it.
BASH: A busy dad --
SUNUNU: Valerie and the kids keep it so real and so grounded for me.
BASH: -- who's defining his own role within a political family dynasty, a rising Republican star who has managed to avoid the former president's ire even when speaking out against him.
SUNUNU: I'm just telling you, if you can't say stuff like that, I'm going to push back.
BASH: Soon facing a major decision about his future.
Are you thinking about running for president in 2024?
In this series we talk to people in politics and pop culture and find out what it's like to be them. Now Being Chris Sununu.
You were just re-elected, a Republican governor in a purple state. So, what's it like to be you right now given the fact you're a Republican at a very interesting time for the GOP?
SUNUNU: I see it as an opportunity.
SUNUNU: A great opportunity, on opportunity to say, okay, where are we going to take our message, what can we do better? I think the opportunity is, you know, helping potential candidates, hopefully inspiring the next generation of Republicans to step up, hopefully inspiring folks to realize it isn't as partisan as maybe the last few years have really been. It doesn't have to be that way. And voters don't want it that way. And so we have an opportunity to kind of embrace that and go forward with good Republican conservative ideals to get more stuff done.
BASH: The midterm election was not the red wave a lot of Republicans predicted. Why?
SUNUNU: Bad candidates. Yes, we did not have the right candidates that came out of a lot of our primaries, and I think they lost sense of the priorities of the Republican Party, of the independent voter, just the extremism, the election denial, all of that stuff.
And I think the Democrats did a wonderful job of predefining our candidates before they could introduce themselves.
BASH: Sununu defines himself in a way most Republicans do not.
Where are you on the Republican spectrum?
SUNUNU: All over the place.
BASH: Yes. When you say extreme, so how would you define yourself?
SUNUNU: I just think I try to be as normal and genuine as I can be. I don't change my philosophies. I don't change my principles or what I'm about, but I try to be very approachable and I try to be very data- based.
BASH: Are you a moderate?
SUNUNU: On social issues, I'm more moderate than other Republicans. On fiscal issues, I'm much more conservative and I'm very proud of that.
BASH: He won a fourth term as governor of New Hampshire by more than 15 percentage points, but all three federal GOP candidates there lost.
So, the lesson is they were the wrong candidates because they were too extreme?
SUNUNU: For this state, yes, absolutely, yes. I mean, I supported them.
BASH: I know you did.
Candidates like election denier Don Bolduc, whom Sununu did not support in the primary.
SUNUNU: He's not a serious candidate. I mean, he's really not. He's kind of a conspiracy theorist-type candidate.
BASH: But he backed the GOP Senate candidate in the general election.
SUNUNU: He wants to makes things up and he's going to go down to Washington and do that.
BASH: When we talked before the election, Sununu was confident.
BASH: Right now, Maggie Hassan is ahead.
BASH: What's your prediction?
SUNUNU: I think Bolduc wins. Yes, Don Bolduc is --
BASH: That's a bold prediction.
SUNUNU: Not if you know the state.
BASH: Bolduc lost by over 9 percentage points.
When you and I talked in October, you said that the Republicans were going to win here.
SUNUNU: Yes. Look, I totally misjudged that one here. When you look at the polls, when you look at what's important to folks, there's no doubt inflation and costs and energy are the number one concern of the voters, but what no poll ever asks you is your top issue extremism and fear of getting nothing done. That actually was the top issue for a lot of folks. And what they said was we need to fix these policies, but we have to fix the system first. We have to fix the machine. And we didn't have -- they didn't have faith that these individuals would be a fix to that Washington problem to get more stuff done.
But there was just so much noise they had to combat with on some of their, you know, previous statements and what happened in the 2020 election.
BASH: He says he wants to see his party move off that path away from lies and conspiracy theories embraced by the former president. Many voters seem to agree. Most of the candidates Trump endorsed in key House and Senate races lost in November.
SUNUNU: He did not have a very good record, to be sure.
BASH: What does that tell you?
SUNUNU: That he is not the influence he thinks he is. That's when the former president announced that he's running for president a week after the election, everyone were like, okay.
DONALT TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: In order to make America great and glorious again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for the president of the United States.
SUNUNU: He's announcing he's running for president at his most politically weak point. He's doing it from a point of weakness, from a point of whatever his own agenda is. But it's kind of just a blip on the radar. There's an argument to be made he's not even the frontrunner, right?
BASH: Sununu always had a unique relationship with Trump, critical at times.
SUNUNU: We know the president has a tendency to speak in hyperbole and tweet things out and all that stuff.
BASH: But do you like to have the former president campaign with you in your re-election campaign in New Hampshire?
SUNUNU: I don't need anyone to campaign with me.
Donald Trump does not define Chris Sununu. He doesn't even define the Republican Party.
BASH: But he somehow escaped Trump's counterpunch.
You've managed to walk this line that most Republicans have not. How?
SUNUNU: Well, you know, early on when he became president, we made it really clear, both with him, we had a relationship and with the White House, that, look, when he does things with policy and whatever, if he does things that deserves credit, I'll be the first one to stand up and give him credit. But when you have a tone or something that I disagree with, or he says things or does things I disagree with. I'm going to say that too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The joke heard around the world of American politics.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chris Sununu is clarifying a comment that he made over the weekend about former President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You made some comments that did raise a lot of eyebrows and got some headlines as well.
BASH: You addressed a ballroom full of journalists and top Washington elected officials in both parties, and you called Donald Trump (BLEEP) crazy. Do you think he is effing crazy?
SUNUNU: It's a good joke. Yes. Look, it's a roast, let's be honest, the gridiron dinner is a roast.
BASH: The part of a roast is that there's more than a grain of truth to a lot of things that he says.
SUNUNU: That's how good comedy is and -
BASH: But do you think that's what he is?
SUNUNU: He has a style unto himself. I'm going to be as polite as I can be.
TRUMP: We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.
BASH: The conspiracies, the, frankly, lies that he pedaled about the election and then what happened on January 6th, is he fit to be president again?
SUNUNU: I just don't think he's going to be president again.
BASH: But do you think he should be president again?
SUNUNU: No. Because he's done his time, he's done his service, we're moving on. We are. As a country as a party, we want the next idea, we want the next generation, whatever it is. So, to say we're going to be a country where the best opportunity for our future leadership is the leadership of yesterday, that's, frankly, un-American. We're just taking the next step. We're moving on. Thank you for your service, we're moving on.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Thank you for a historic landslide victory.
BASH: He even brought up Florida Governor Ron DeSantis unprompted as a stronger potential candidate than Trump.
SUNUNU: There's an argument to be made that someone like DeSantis could beat him in a primary today. And this --
BASH: Do you think he could?
SUNUNU: I think another candidate could, yes. Do I think DeSantis? Maybe. I don't know. I mean, I really don't know.
BASH: Would he be a good president?
SUNUNU: I think he would be a good president, sure. I think a lot of Republican governors would be good --
BASH: Do you think that he would be able to connect with voters the way you're describing?
SUNUNU: Everyone connects with voters differently, right? I mean, I don't want to speak specifically to Ron but I have my style, he has his style. Everyone is a little different. Every state is different.
Every single vote matters, and that's what we saw today, huge turnout, everyone participating in the process.
BASH: Sununu is not shy about wanting to take part in reshaping his national party. SUNUNU: Look, I take a huge responsibility in a leadership message, as I think most -- any Republican governor does, in terms of making sure we are being positive and inspirational, talking about the right things. And, hopefully, that garners us back to where we need to be as a Republican Party as opposed to letting these more extreme elements hold those microphones. We don't want to see that happen because that's not successful.
So, both myself and others will, I think, be driving this message. And then through that process you see who can stand up and meet that message, that can meet that challenge to be a leader with those qualities, those intangibles, those communication skills, those policies we want to see.
BASH: But does Sununu want to be the ultimate Republican leader?
SUNUNU: Look, I'm not trying to be coy. I'm really not.
BASH: You kind of are.
More on that later. And up next --
SUNUNU: I brought some of these skeletons but all the cemetery stuff I made my hand.
BASH: -- the governor gets on the roof and behind a wheel.
BASH: Being a Sununu in New Hampshire is all about the family business, politics.
BASH: Wow. So, this is the governor's office.
SUNUNU: This is it.
BASH: What's it like to be here as governor? You would run around here as a kid.
SUNUNU: It's the same place. I mean, everything is really the same. I mean, the portraits may be a little different or they've upgraded the furniture, I suppose, a little bit. But now, it's really the same place.
BASH: Each day when he walks into his office at the statehouse, he's greeted by a portrait of his father, former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu.
SUNUNU: But this is amazing portrait.
BASH: But you're in that. You're back there, right? SUNUNU: I'm in the red coat kneeling on the left side there. If you zoomed in, you'll see how awkward I looked because, again, I'm an eighth grade boy at the time. But I believe because of that, this is the only portrait in America with two governors in it, which is kind of funny, right?
BASH: Not only are there two governors in the family, his older brother, John E. Sununu, represented New Hampshire in the House and Senate from 1997 to 2009, big shoes to fill for Chris, the seventh of eight kids.
SUNUNU: So, when I first become governor, I think the obvious -- one of my obvious first thoughts is, oh, boy, am I going to be in the shadow?
I mean, he was a really great governor and he has a great reputation and all that, a very, very smart guy. I do lean on him sometimes. I'll call on him and I'll ask him a piece of advice.
Now, the trick is you've got to his advice and say, wow, that was probably brilliant back in 1988. So, how I craft that --
BASH: Back when those computers were coming in.
SUNUNU: Exactly. So, how do I craft that to more of a 2022 style message or policy? He was one of those who wanted to stay very connected to the constituency. He was very hands on. He spent so much time out of this office. And that was an amazing lesson I learned very early on about the --
BASH: Because you watched that when you were young?
SUNUNU: Watched it, participated in it, everything.
BASH: In 1989 when he was 14, his father became White House Chief of Staff to President George H.W. Bush. He remembers it as a tough time.
He was governor. He left. You went to the Washington, D.C. area. That was not -- your eyes are getting big.
SUNUNU: Pleasant. That was not pleasant.
BASH: It was not pleasant.
SUNUNU: No, it's different. I remember walking in my freshman year and kids are sitting kind of at their lockers early morning, waiting for class to start. And they're reading The Washington Post. I'm like this is a bizarre world. But given that my dad, our federal policy was at the front of a lot of those discussions, it just made it very awkward, a very tough time. And it never got quite unawkward.
BASH: Those headlines got tougher when his father became embroiled in controversy and eventually left the Bush White House. SUNUNU: I just wanted to have a girlfriend and go to a football game, like any normal kid does, never mind try to deal with politics. And if anything, that's where I said, look, I'm never doing this political thing.
BASH: Until he did. His office is the same one his dad used more than 30 years ago. But Sununu says his political inspiration actually came from his other parent.
SUNUNU: My mom was on the school board, I think, before my dad even got involved in politics. I mean, that was really my intro to politics. My mom would bring us over to the library, Kelly Library in Salem, New Hampshire. I'd sit on the floor and call her while the school board meeting was going on in the bottom of the library and then would go. But that was the whole process, you got to -- you tied your time. And if you have eight kids, here's a good idea, get on the school board.
BASH: Yes. Sununu and his wife, Valerie, are now raising three children of their own. He says he makes a point to build family time into his schedule, even hanging homemade Halloween decorations.
This is no joke.
SUNUNU: Oh, yes.
BASH: This is pretty amazing.
SUNUNU: Again, probably started a few years ago as a way of me just getting outside, a real little therapy, if you will. I made a lot of it on my own. I bought some of these skeletons, but like all these cemetery stuff I made by hand, and I was just trying to be handy to get my mind off stuff.
BASH: The wood on the windows?
BASH: And this is your project?
SUNUNU: This is my thing.
BASH: Do you ever enlist the kids? No? You just do it on your own?
SUNUNU: Yes, they like it. Yes, they enjoy it. They really -- it's Halloween. My kids love Halloween. And it's New England. I mean, everyone in New England loves Halloween. So, I don't know. I'm sure there's some -- someone could do some psychoanalysis on why the governor loves Halloween and obsesses over --
BASH: Your next therapy appointment, get back to me and tell me what your therapist says.
SUNUNU: Right here. That's my therapist.
BASH: This is your therapist? Hello. SUNUNU: What's with the fourth term? No. But it's great, we have a lot of --
BASH: 2024, are you kidding?
SUNUNU: No way. And there goes my political career.
BASH: His youngest son, Leo, is nine years old, the same age he was when his dad was governor.
Are there things that you experienced that you said, oh, boy, I don't want him to go through that?
SUNUNU: Yes, yes. If they don't want to do a parade, I don't make them go to a parade.
BASH: Did you have to go to parades?
SUNUNU: All the time, yes. But I didn't mind it. I really tries to respect the fact that because of the social media and all these other pressures that I didn't have, they have them, and they're -- I give them as much flexibility to walk their path. If they want to come to a cool event, great, and if not, that's fine, too.
BASH: Right. So, you could walk in a parade in 1980-something and maybe it would be on the local news and that was it.
BASH: Now, it's on everybody's --
SUNUNU: Social media, whatever.
BASH: So, they can't have anonymity, like you could.
SUNUNU: No, there's very little for a family.
BASH: How does your family like you being governor?
SUNUNU: It's hard. They like it. I mean, I wouldn't say like or not like. Maybe that's not the right word, but it's hard on them, and especially during the pandemic. It could be brutal at times. But I don't think either of us can truly appreciate what kids have to deal with, everything from bullying, from sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. It can come from students, it can come from teachers, it can come from strangers. And it can be based on something real, it can be based on misinformation, it can be based on emotion. So --
BASH: But they have a giant white hot spotlight on them because of who you are?
SUNUNU: Yes. I think almost anybody in my position does.
BASH: Your wife is very private.
SUNUNU: Yes. BASH: Which is understandable.
SUNUNU: It's great. I love that she's private because it helps keep my grounded. If Valerie and the kids wanted to go to everything with me, we would just be governor 24/7.
And, yes, your head could get lost in the clouds, but Valerie and the kids keep it so real and so grounded for me because, first and foremost, they want and demand and have earned a right to that privacy.
BASH: When she married you, she knew that you had politicians in your family. When you said, oh, honey, I think I'm going to run for office.
SUNUNU: Yes, and she said, no, you're not. And I said, yes, I knew that was coming. But then we talked about it. She got behind it 100 percent, God bless her. Very unknown for her. I kind to knew what I was getting into somewhat. I knew what the kids were getting into somewhat, very unknown for her but she was very supportive. And I'm blessed to have that, that kind of support.
BASH: The governor does find ways to unwind outside of his busy schedule. Taking rides in his 1966 Mustang convertible, a vintage car he's had since he was a teenager, top down --
BASH: If you think I'm not turning a (INAUDIBLE) in this car.
BASH: Music cranked.
If you don't do it, I will.
Coming up, the governor opens up about a life changing health scare.
SUNUNU: They said, ultimately, you probably just would have just fallen asleep and not woken up.
BASH: Being Chris Sununu means leaving and breathing New Hampshire.
SUNUNU: I just love it here. My family is here. I'm probably addicted to this state almost to a fault. And if you're in a place like New Hampshire, there's no better thing to do than go hiking especially at this time of year.
BASH: Of course, the sound of the leaves under your feet.
SUNUNU: I love it. It's like a rhythmic meditation.
SUNUNU: Yes. You're kind of going through like swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, and you're kind of -- it's very common.
BASH: The four-term Granite State governor had a long journey to get to politics starting with a more than 2,000-mile hike after graduating from MIT.
The Appalachian Trail?
BASH: Is that how you got the bug for hiking?
SUNUNU: Probably, yes. So, I just love being outdoors. I've worked really hard at MIT. It was a tough 4, 4.5 years. As we say in New Hampshire, it was wicked hot. It was wicked hot. So, I just wanted to make sure I was taking the right first steps, sort to saying, what better way to do that than to kind to see what it was like go live in the woods for five months and hike 2,000 miles.
The idea of starting on one mountain and end up in Maine and end up in Georgia was pretty exciting. And just -- it's a personal challenge. I'm kind of goal-oriented. Very few people actually start and are able to finish. Let's see if we can do this. And maybe we learn a little something about ourselves and --
BASH: What did you learn about yourselves?
SUNUNU: Priorities. When you're worried about where to get a drink of water every day for five months, it kind of puts things in perspective when you come back to the real world in terms of priorities, needs, what's important, what isn't, what you should spend your time on worrying about. And that's what the Appalachian Trail. It gave me a great perspective.
BASH: Perspective that not everything should be at an 11?
SUNUNU: Exactly. Exactly.
BASH: After college, Sununu, spent a decade as an environmental engineer before stepping into unexpected role he says prepared him for the governorship.
But, first of all, how did you get from MIT, engineer to, oh, I'm going to buy and manage a ski a resort?
SUNUNU: I worked as a business consultant, helped some folks out that wanted to buy a ski resort. We ended up driving the whole process. And I found the investors for this group and all the investors said, okay, we're going to invest but we want you to run it. And I said, well, what do I know about running a ski resort? They said, well, who wrote the business plan? I said, I did. That's what we want you to do. We believe in the plan. This is the right path. It's a little different. This is what we want. Next day, I am running a resort.
All of those aspects of running a business, as stressful as they were, as challenging, amazing learning experience. And that's one of the things that got me to run for governor. I said, well, we've learned a lot, we've kind of trialed by fire in a lot of these things. We've designed new systems, we have taken on new challenges, that's good management and expertise. And it's exactly what I thought the state needed at the time.
BASH: So, that CEO management experience was absolutely the best training for this job?
SUNUNU: It's the only training. And I'm quite a big believer in that. If you haven't had the sweat out payroll to take care of your employees and their families, if you haven't had to work with shareholders or folks that are coming to you to manage their money, I mean, there's no greater responsibility in government than managing other people's money, none.
BASH: Last summer, he was forced to slow down when a serious health scare sent him to the hospital.
SUNUNU: I thought I had COVID. And I was just exhausted all day for about a week. And then I thought the holiday weekend of Labor Day of '21 is coming up, I'd better go in and just checked it out. And sure enough, I'd been bleeding inside all week. I had a bleeding ulcer. I only had about a third of my blood level, the way they should be, and they had to start the transfusions immediately. And, again, I thought I had a flu or COVID. The next thing I know, I got four transfusions over a period of 24 hours. They saved me, it was great.
BASH: Saved you, like --
SUNUNU: Yes. Well, if they said, ultimately, you probably just would have fallen asleep and not woken up, and you would have never known because I was bleeding out essentially. So, it was kind of scary because I'm 47. I like to consider myself like 26, but I am 47.
BASH: But 47 is young to have a health scare like that.
SUNUNU: It is. It is. And so you've got to manage your stress. Everybody does.
BASH: I was just going to say, you know what ulcers tend to be from, right?
SUNUNU: Yes, I know. I know. It's -- look, it's a stressful job and we had just come through the COVID pandemic. And I think we did great.
BASH: So, it affected you physically?
BASH: The now 48-year-old says the lifesaving procedure gave him perspective.
SUNUNU: You know what was weird? I was sitting in the hospital bed and I'm kind of waiting -- this is just like their first hour or two of me getting there and I'm looking at the television and it's a shot of me being wheeled into the hospital.
REPORTER: He arrived here by ambulance just before 2:00 Friday afternoon after reporting flu-like symptoms on Wednesday.
SUNUNU: When I saw that image, it hit home.
SUNUNU: Oh, it was a very scary looking image.
BASH: Because it quite literally took you out of your--
SUNUNU: I was in a gurney and they had all the tubes in me and they're giving me blood as they-- it's a scary looking thing and I'm like, who's that guy? I'm like, oh my God, that's me.
BASH: But that is what gave you the aha moment.
SUNUNU: Yes, I had to see myself on the outside.
BASH: Oh, my God.
SUNUNU: Going oh, my holy cow. And then I said, wow, this is pretty serious. Pretty serious. It was very scary. It was. And you try to learn from it, hopefully learn from it, change habits. I mean - well, a little bit. No, I definitely learned from it.
BASH: What did you learn?
SUNUNU: Sometimes it's OK to put yourself first. Sometimes it's OK for health reasons. Because--
BASH: And how have you done that?
SUNUNU: How do I want to do it? How do I plan on doing it.
BASH: What's your aspirational?
SUNUNU: Physical health is important. Right? So, maybe losing a few pounds and getting out and running more, not just--
BASH: (Inaudible) differently.
SUNUNU: I try to, I'm trying to eat a little less meat, a little less red meat. And--
BASH: Because of your bleeding ulcer.
SUNUNU: Because of that, and because Tom Brady said so, I love Tom Brady. Pretty much what Tom Brady says I want to aspire to. And I go to bed at night going oh, I shouldn't have eaten that cookie dough. Right? Like 20 minutes ago, probably. Tom Brady wouldn't have eaten raw cookie dough at 10:30 at night, but (inaudible) just did.
BASH: Are you trying to follow the Tom Brady diet? SUNUNU: I tried for a little while. And just to kind of learn about it. Look, I'm not going to go eat avocado, nonfat frozen yogurt or whatever, whatever it is. That's not quite my jam. But no, I think there are good - you can pick out of something like that. That is so ultimately discipline, like decades of physical discipline, and health discipline, and maybe take pieces for yourself.
BASH: Tom Brady may be the aspiration, but for now Sununu says he's just looking for balance.
SUNUNU: Yes, I carry a lot of stress with me. There's no doubt about that. I grew up in a big family. You kind of took care of yourself, right? You fell down and scraped your knee, you got up, you rub dirt on it, you got back out there, that's just the way we did it. And so, I guess emotionally and mentally in terms of dealing with stresses, I tend to have that same pattern. But as you get older, it's not necessarily the best thing and the healthiest thing to do. And I want to be here for my kids and I want to be here for the state and I've got a job to do, it doesn't help me doesn't help the state if I'm laid up.
That was the one scare that I really had. I've been pretty blessed but you've got to learn from it and hopefully take better habits and move on.
BASH: Up next, the governor presses the flesh across New Hampshire.
SUNUNU: Great to see you. I'm doing great.
BASH: But could he ever leaves the Granite State? This is absolutely beautiful.
SUNUNU: It's incredible. It's hard to say yes, I'm just going to leave and go to DC.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu will join us in just a couple of moments. He's live in studio with us today.
BASH: Being Chris Sununu means getting up early and getting out front during the final weeks of his 2022 reelection campaign.
SUNUNU: As a candidate, whether it's for governor or the school board. You've got to be - what am I bringing to the table?
BASH: He redefines the term boundless energy from radio stations to rotary clubs, small town streets and local watering holes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Numbers in America. BASH: Sununu has been everywhere.
BASH: He says he fell in love with country music during COVID and reworked that Johnny Cash song during his campaign. You wrote that?
SUNUNU: I wrote the whole song myself, just one night sitting at home.
SUNUNU: And then it sat at my desk and I just didn't like as a fun little game in my head part.
BASH: Do you remember the words? You'd have get to go through--
SUNUNU: (Inaudible) I could. The video does look pretty cool. And it made me realize that I took a lot of selfies. I take a lot of selfies.
BASH: It's like no one ask for autographs anymore. It's just selfies.
SUNUNU: That's the new autograph, which is cool.
BASH: We joined him for a day of events as he crisscrossed the state. You're always in governor mode.
SUNUNU: Always thinking, yes, it's hard. Look, I just have to manage Medicaid. I have to manage veterans' benefits. I have to manage all these big-ticket things. But at the same time, so much of our success is driven on a local economy, small business. How are these folks doing? Do they have workforce? Where does their workforce live? Do we have the opportunity for new housing project, we can talk about how great New Hampshire is and all the great statistics. But at the end of the day, the real issue is tell me what's wrong. Tell me what isn't working, right. Because now I got the challenge to go and kind of fix it or try to break down the barrier, figure out how to make it better. That's the funniest part of the job.
BASH: Hard to believe he insists he was once a shy introvert.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Chris. Pleasure. Nice to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just turned 95 last week.
SUNUNU: That's it.
BASH: Between campaign stops, we followed him on a grocery run.
SUNUNU: All right, so I do need a few things.
BASH: A regular errand he insists he enjoys.
SUNUNU: This would have been - sort of have been just under four bucks about a year ago. BASH: Why do you do the food shopping?
SUNUNU: Therapy? I love it. So first, I'm a math guy. So, I have my budget in my head. We're going to spend 125 bucks; I've got to get the best deals. And I find I like doing it. I just I enjoy it.
BASH: But this is really therapy - like is this - this is not just for us.
SUNUNU: Oh, I love it. No, no, no. Oh, no, no, no, I'm here all the time. And again, Valerie (ph) comes into shopping. But I'll be like, no, no, let me go. I'd rather go.
BASH: A chance to see firsthand how much things cost and for constituents to come up and say hi.
SUNUNU: Nice to see you. Have you been? Nice to see you, I'm doing great.
BASH: It's therapy, but is it also--
SUNUNU: It's my time--
BASH: To interact.
SUNUNU: Yes, to interact. I get to like, you know, people are fairly comfortable. We're only a few miles from my house. People come up and let me know what's happening in the school district. They'll come up and let me know what's going on with COVID. Are we - what do they think of the new regulations or something happened that with DES, or hey I can't get a curb cut.
But I don't think it's a rare thing. To be able to sit at a dinner table and just have a cup of coffee and talk to someone. I would - If you can't do that, then you don't deserve the job.
BASH: He's very open that he hopes his down to earth approach rubs off on the younger generation now more familiar with toxic political styles.
SUNUNU: I think one of the opportunities we have is with, I'll say, the 35 and unders, 32 and under right year-old demographic, those are excited animated voters, they want to get involved. But they've really only seen and participated in politics at its most littoral level, like nobody gets inspired to get more involved in public service by being yelled at or blasted out from a podium or shaking their feet. No one gets inspired by that, they might get amped up, but not inspired.
And I think real leadership has an opportunity, especially with the younger generation to inspire them, show that that higher path, if you will, that opportunity that they have to be positive, to be - to work with the other side.
BASH: I don't know if you've noticed, but some of our leaders are not young.
SUNUNU: That's politically correct term.
BASH: Is it time for a younger generation, a new generation of leaders, does that make a difference?
SUNUNU: Well, I think it's always - it's always good to get young folks that come in with energy. But you do need experience too. When I became governor at 42, I was shocked when they told me I was the youngest governor in the country. And I was the youngest for like four years. And I'm like, really, there's obviously has been some older leadership. There's nothing wrong with that, if it comes with the right tone and the right approach and, and using the right experiences, theoretically, the older, wiser you are, you should have more experience to not get emotional over a political issue, to not get amped up and triggered and overcharged on the political side of things, actually, hopefully bring some experience some maturity, some calmness, understand the value of deescalating a situation before it gets so hyped up that you can't negotiate anymore.
BASH: A lot of Republicans lobbied Sununu to run for Senate in 2022. But he said his love for being governor, a chief executive, not a legislator made it easy to turn down.
You didn't want to leave this and go to Washington to represent the state in the Senate, because you wanted to see the seeds that you plan to actually grow?
SUNUNU: Yes, I am a manager, right? We were designing new systems here, new ways to do it.
BASH: But isn't that a part of you that wants to sprinkle those seeds--
SUNUNU: Of course.
BASH: Over 49 other states.
SUNUNU: Yes, I'm very proud of what we've done here. And I do I travel--
BASH: There's a way that you can do that.
SUNUNU: Well, I try. There's a lot of ways to do that.
But BASH: there's one way that you can be the CEO of all of America.
SUNUNU: Look, a lot of people are talking about the whole run in 2024 and all that. And look, I can tell you, over the next year, I'll travel a lot more. I mean, I really will. I've been asked to travel a lot. And I usually say no, just to say OK, what's going on in New Hampshire? How are you guys doing this? Can you come and share the ideas or work with our teams? So maybe I'll go to another state and work with a team in another state. I think what we've been able to do here is very similar to what America would love to see in their own state. BASH: Coming up. It sounds like what you're saying is you want to be a model nationally. You don't want to be a candidate for president.
SUNUNU: Everyone, woke up.
BASH: On election day being Chris Sununu met getting in those last few moments with voters and the press.
SUNUNU: We've worked really hard. We've made sure folks just talk about the issues, understand our record of success.
BASH: Casting his ballot and thanking supporters.
SUNUNU: Are you excited?
UNKNOWN: I am.
SUNUNU: Very good.
BASH: This arcade is Sununu's election night campaign headquarters.
SUNUNU: Hey, buddy. Hey, you want me to sign it.
SUNUNU: Hey, thanks for coming, guys.
UNKNOWN: Can I take a picture with you?
SUNUNU: Of course, yes, yes.
BASH: Complete with bowling, video games, and even ax throwing. And then the moment of truth.
UNKNOWN: We have three projections to bring you, all three of them Republican holds beginning in the state of New Hampshire. Chris Sununu winning a fourth term.
SUNUNU: This is awesome.
BASH: While Sununu was victorious in New Hampshire, Republicans nationwide did not fare as well.
One of the main messages we heard from President Biden and other Democrats was democracy is on the ballot. Was democracy on the ballot?
SUNUNU: The system was on the ballot. Right? The system, the partisanship was on the ballot. I don't like the term democracy because what that means, he's saying is if you vote for Republicans, you're not with demo -- that that's not a fair assessment. BASH: My impression is that he said if you vote for a Republican who
denies the results of the election, that's not democratic.
SUNUNU: Yes, but he was -- but he was there promoting the entire Democrat ticket, saying that if you didn't vote for Democrats, you weren't voting for democracy.
Do you know what -- do you know what the liberal elite says about Joe Biden behind his back?
BASH: Do you?
BASH: How do you know?
SUNUNU: Because they said it to his face during the primary that he was an out touch old white guy that did not represent the future of the Democrat Party.
BASH: Just purely for a political reason, as a Republican, do you want him to run?
SUNUNU: No. I just don't think it's good for America. I think it's good -- I think it's good on both sides to get a lot of moving forward fresh blood there. Yes. Fresh ideas.
BASH: Fresh blood and ideas.
SUNUNU: I, Christopher T. Sununu --
BASH: Is he referring to himself? At the State House in Concord his office is just steps away from the Secretary of State's office where presidential candidates registered to be on the ballot for New Hampshire's famous primary.
So, if you were to run for president, you would walk out that door, walk down this hallway, and all you have to do is go right there.
SUNUNU: Probably just do it on my lunch break at some point. I wouldn't tell anyone.
BASH: You do have an advantage if in the future you decide to cross this threshold and actually sign it because this is the first the nation primary state.
SUNUNU: Yes. But not as much as you think.
SUNUNU: Yes, because being governor is very different, you know, than being president. Their -- the responsibilities vary differently and I think our voters appreciate that. So, I imagine anybody if from their home state, whether it's a couple candidates in South Carolina or a few candidates down in Florida, you're still going to have to earn it one way or the other. You can't take anything for, for granted.
BASH: So, will he make that walk to run?
Are you thinking about running for president in 2024?
SUNUNU: No. I'm not thinking about it right now. I'm really not.
BASH: Right now.
SUNUNU: Well, not ever technically. I haven't -- I haven't. I haven't. Look, folks have talked to me about it, that's obvious and clear. And I think as things start gearing up into '23 more folks will be talking about it. My focus right now is New Hampshire. It really is. Because it has to be and I want it to be.
I mean, we have our challenge. But we also have amazing results to back up the systems that we've put into place at a local level. People ask me to travel the country all the time. How are you doing it in New Hampshire? How do you have no sales tax and income tax, but all this economic success? Why? Why are you guys the ones growing so aggressively in the northeast?
And if that can be, you know, copied across the country and inspire our next generation to know that not everything has to be, you know, fire branded on both sides, that's a win for America.
BASH: It sounds like what you're saying is you want to be a model nationally. You don't want to be a candidate for president.
SUNUNU: I want -- we want to be a model nationally. And I want to share that record of success.
BASH: It's so funny you didn't answer the second part of my question.
SUNUNU: I was just getting to it, but you interrupted. So, we'll go into the next thing. No, I'm not.
BASH: Are you open to it?
SUNUNU: I'm open to everything, of course. Look, I'm open to what comes in that door next. I'm open to any opportunity that might come down the road. Not for me personally, but for the state and the community.
BASH: It sounds like a cooking opportunity. You said people are coming up to you.
SUNUNU: It could be down the road, but nothing I'm really focusing on today.
BASH: Today like 2024, because you're young.
SUNUNU: Today isn't 2024.
BASH: No. Meaning, meaning in this cycle?
SUNUNU: Yes. Gee, look, I'm not trying to be coy. I'm really not. I'm just --
BASH: You kind of, are.
SUNUNU: No, I'm not. I'm just -- I can tell you part of my job is being ready for whatever comes next.
BASH: Sununu insist Donald Trump's announcement will not influence his decision or any other potential 2024 challenger.
SUNUNU: It shouldn't be about what, what somebody else is there. And as I said, he's not at a political -- a point of political strength right now. I don't think it's going to be going up. I think it's unfortunately for the former president, it's only probably a slow downward spiral from here.
Could he still win the nomination? Absolutely. Let's not fool ourselves of that. But he's not going to keep anybody out of this race.
BASH: One of the ways he could still win the nomination is one of the ways he won in 2016, which is there is a huge field of candidates and they segment or fragment the voters. And then he takes the nomination --
SUNUNU: With 35 percent.
BASH: -- with even -- he could even do less than 35 percent.
BASH: Is there any conversation that is going on should go on to say, in order to stop Donald Trump, we need to not all jump in. We need to pick somebody the best candidate and run that way.
SUNUNU: No, not -- not, I think a lot of us are looking at governors that may run, and I think as governors, we all want to see a governor run and be successful.
Governors are executives. I always say the Senate, U.S. Senate and Congress has its place, but they're not -- they don't have executive leadership skills.
BASH: On the notion of getting together and having a conversation. Obviously, it hasn't happened yet.
SUNUNU: Yes. Like do we presort ourselves out?
BASH: Should it? Should that happen?
SUNUNU: No. No, because it's up to the voters, not to the establishment elite to decide who's going to be --
BASH: Well, it's not necessarily elite.
BASH: It's those of you who are considering running saying, OK, I'll pull back because.
SUNUNU: I think all the -- I think, I've -- just speaking to the folks I've talked to that might be elected officials, I think everyone understands that there's that obligation responsibility. If it's not happening, it's not happening. You got to get out there.
BASH: But you got to get in first.
People look at you and they say, he can be a guy who I could see running.
SUNUNU: Yes, that's very flattering. I'm proud. Look, that tells me we're getting good results and we have the right approach. And it's not just about Chris Sununu's here.
BASH: Is it flattering or is it enticing?
SUNUNU: No, it's flattering. Look, there's a lot of downsides with being president of the United States. There's the whole living in a bubble and all that kind, and you do that to a certain extent in New Hampshire. But boy, I can still say, stay so connected to my constituents and that's probably a lot harder to do as president. And so that's a, a factor. How does it affect my family --
BASH: And also, somebody who likes a challenge.
SUNUNU: I love challenges. I love redesigning systems. I love taking new ideas on.
BASH: Would you like to redesign America.
SUNUNU: Look, I would love the challenge of being part of something that can redesign a better system, because whatever is going on in Washington is not working.
BASH: For now, New Hampshire's governor says he'll keep his attention on his family and his state, whether he'll take on the challenge of Washington, to be continued.