Former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu is a Mitt Romney man, according to Politico. Having recently stepped down as chair of the state Republican Party, Sununu has all but officially declared for Romney.
Speaking to ABC’s blog Top Line, Sununu claimed that “Mitt Romney is at the head of the pack” of candidates who could win the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary. In 2008, the near-favorite son came in second to John McCain.
Romney served as governor of next-door neighbor Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.
The moderate Sununu, like Romney, has always been a part of the pragmatic wing of the Republican Party. Both have eschewed actively embracing the polarizing social issues that are the capital of neo-conservatives such as Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin.
Yet, the political story of 2008 was the rise of the Tea Party movement, galvanized by opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care reform plan. It was the New Hampshire Tea Party that helped the GOP retake the state legislature.
November 2010 proved a bloodbath for New Hampshire Democrats, with the state house painted Republican red. Carol Shea-Porter, the U.S. representative from the 1st Congressional District, and Paul Hodes, who represented the Second, both lost to Republicans. Hodes lost his bid for the U.S. Senate to Republican Kelly Ayotte and his seat in the 2nd District was retaken by former GOP Congressman Charlie Bass.
It was a near-complete rout by the Republicans. They won massive, veto-proof majorities in both houses of the legislature. Gov. John Lynch, a popular moderate Democrat, survived a surprisingly tough challenge from a conservative Republican candidate.
The Tea Party proved so potent that, in January 2011, New Hampshire Republicans voted state Tea Party leader Jack Kimball in as the new chairman of the Granite State GOP, defeating the candidate put forward by Sununu to serve as his successor.
Interestingly, Romney won a straw poll among convention attendees.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel “The Scarlet Letter” takes place in Romney’s Massachusetts. As a Republican presidential candidate, Romney, in the minds of many Tea Party activists, wears a scarlet letter emblazoned “H” for “health care reform,” the very issue that gave rise to their movement. Romney proposed and signed into law a health care reform initiative that extended coverage to all citizens of the Bay State.
Romney’s health care reform law is highly evocative of that of President Obama. Indeed, health care reform is the signature issue of Obama, the man Romney intends to replace. In New Hampshire, things could get pretty tricky pretty quickly as Romney tries to navigate his way out of a political labyrinth of his own making. He claims he will allow states to be exempted from Obamacare if he becomes president.
On his part, former Gov. Sununu is trying to carry Romney’s water by pointing out that it was the conservative Cato Institute that developed the health care reform plan Romney implemented in Massachusetts.
Romney’s hope is that he can solidify non-ideological moderate Republicans and independent voters, allowing the neo-conservatives to cannibalize each other on the right.