NYT Swoons Over 'Normal' Republican Sununu as Not a DeSantis-Style Culture Warrior

February 23rd, 2023 6:49 PM

A New York Times profile of Gov. Chris Sununu, the moderate Republican governor of New Hampshire, positioned him as the acceptable Republican presidential candidate for 2024, unlike those culture warriors and Trump “acolytes” like Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley -- and of course Donald Trump himself.

“Calling for Normalcy, Sununu Eyes 2024 Bid” appeared in Tuesday’s edition by Matt Flegenheimer and had an online headline that was even more contemptuous of Republicans: “Chris Sununu Eyes the G.O.P.’s ‘Normal’ Lane in 2024. Does It Exist?”

The online headline deck celebrated Sununu, the son of former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu: “The New Hampshire governor’s flirtation with a presidential run is a test of abortion politics, Republican media strategy and the durability of the MAGA mentality. ‘I’m conservative,” he says. ‘I’m just not an extremist.’”

Flegenheimer began his 2,100-word profile by conveniently forwarding Sununu’s own dig at Trump (click “expand”):

When then-President Donald J. Trump visited New Hampshire in 2018, a typical delegation awaited him: flag-waving superfans, sign-carrying protesters and the sitting Republican governor.

Mr. Trump, true to form, seemed most interested in the first group.

“They love me,” he said, admiring the crowd in Manchester from his executive limousine, according to the governor, Chris Sununu, who rode with him. Mr. Trump singled out an especially zealous-looking visitor. “You see that guy?” he said. “He loves me.”

Never mind that the man’s sign had two words, Mr. Sununu recalled: a four-letter profanity and “Trump.”

“You like to think in that moment, ‘Well, maybe he just didn’t see,’” the governor said. But some people, he suggested, see what they want to see.

Mover over, Trumpers, was the message from Sununu and The Times:

After three consecutive disappointing election cycles for his party, Mr. Sununu says the time for indulging Mr. Trump’s delusions has long passed. The midterms, he argues, proved that the nation, including many Republicans, had little interest in the far-right candidates the former president backed. Even nominating a onetime Trump acolyte from the prospective 2024 field, like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida or the former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, is a misread of the moment, he says.


And so, Mr. Sununu -- a “Seinfeld”-quoting, Covid booster-boosting son of a governor who supported Mr. Trump’s first two campaigns -- is offering himself up as a walking referendum on the direction of his party.

Flegenheimer let Sununu brag about his winning “scoreboard”:

Last November, Mr. Sununu won re-election by more than 15 points in a state that has awarded Democrats each of its federal offices, the sort of big-tent showing he says his party will require in 2024. (Some other double-digit Republican standouts, including Mr. DeSantis, scored their midterm landslides in states that tilted broadly red.)

The above comparison is misleading, given that DeSantis barely squeaked out a victory in Florida in 2018 but won converts for his handling of COVID and cultural issues and was the reason Florida “tilted broadly red” to the tune of a 19-point reelection win for the former congressman.

Naturally, The Times appreciated the New Hampshire governor’s pop culture patois and “meditations on the “big-government authoritarian” impulses of certain culture-warring counterparts and the fading salience of abortion for many Republicans after Dobbs.”

Flegenheimer eagerly latched on to Sununu’s insults of potential rival DeSantis who's been “targeting private businesses deemed hostile to right-wing values,” adding a direct quote from Sununu: “Is government going to solve a cultural issue? No. Good Republicans don’t believe that.”

As evidenced by Sununu's cooperation with The Times, Flegenheimer noted that “Sununu has found fault with Mr. DeSantis and other Republicans who shun traditional news organizations or unscripted public encounters.”

Is Sununu angling for the slot of the liberal press’s favorite 2024 Republican, a la John McCain before him?