Jan. 11—Gov. Chris Sununu took another baby step toward a Republican presidential bid in 2024, telling Fox News Wednesday that he was a "firm maybe" on the topic.
During an appearance with Dana Perino and Bill Hemmer, Sununu, 48, said he believed most Republican hopefuls would not jump into a race for the White House until this summer at the earliest.
Sununu said his day job remained his top priority and suggested that he needed to get through the 2023 legislative session and the battle over a two-year state budget before making any decision.
"I don't think you will see folks really jump into this race until the summer," Sununu said, interviewed at Fox News' New York headquarters.
He noted other current and recently former governors also considering a run have their own pressing issues, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, ex-Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and ex-Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
When asked whether he would run, Sununu said, "That's a firm maybe, sir."
On Wednesday, Sununu made the national media rounds in New York, also appearing on Fox News Radio with Brian Kilmeade and on CNBC's "Squawk Newsmakers" program.
Sununu said the national GOP needs to "change the conversation a little bit" and "get back to the basics" of limited government, personal freedom and lower taxes.
"There are parts of our model I want to share with the rest of the country," Sununu said, adding this period of exploration may not end up with a run for president.
Sununu: Biden 'two steps behind' on the border
On DeSantis, Sununu said, "I think Ron would do well," but he advised all those thinking about a 2024 run need to connect with voters.
"Any governor has to be willing to engage with voters in their homes," Sununu said of New Hampshire's reputation for retail politicking.
"We want to buy off on you as a person before we buy into the policy," he said.
Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley predicted Sununu's presidential fortunes would crash and burn.
"Chris Sununu exploring a race for higher office is like Salomon August Andrée exploring the Arctic — and just like Andrée, he's full of hot air, will fail, and will be forgotten by history soon," Buckley said in a statement.
"He'll be chewed up and spit out in any national contest, and no amount of face time on Fox News will change his fate."
Former Attorney General Tom Rath, a veteran adviser to former GOP presidents, said Sununu's national sales pitch was going over well.
"I am hardly unbiased but Sununu is really good in these formats — more relaxed, less scripted and/or programmed than other hopefuls," Rath said. "He talks in language that most people understand and smiles."
Sununu said the top issue facing his state is expanding the mental health system to treat children with behavioral health problems that only got worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state last year bought the privately-owned Hampstead Hospital to convert it into a mental health treatment center for young people, he said.
"A lot of folks are coming to me. They want me to run. I am listening to them," Sununu said on CNBC.
Sununu said he was glad President Joe Biden spoke from Mexico about the need to control the flow of deadly fentanyl through the southern border, but that the administration has been "two steps behind" in preventing illegal drugs coming into this country.
"It is a cartel-driven crisis. That's why this open border is such a problem. It's great to see the president finally down there and acknowledging it, but he's still two steps behind," Sununu said.
New Hampshire has been on the cutting edge of battling fentanyl, said Sununu, who on Thursday will announce a new public service announcement campaign called, "No Safe Experience."
The goal is to increase awareness and warnings to young people that fentanyl is sold in many other forms including in lookalike Adderall, Xanax and even vaping products, Sununu said.