Haley Doesn’t Need Tuesday Win to Sustain Bid, Sununu Says

(Bloomberg) -- Nikki Haley can sustain her presidential campaign into the next round of Republican primaries even without a win in Tuesday’s contest in New Hampshire, the state’s Governor Chris Sununu said.

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Sununu, New Hampshire’s popular chief executive, endorsed Haley for the GOP nomination and has campaigned extensively with her across the Granite State. Haley needs a strong showing there after finishing third in Iowa’s Jan. 15 Republican caucus, behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

“Just showing a stronger performance than was in Iowa, that’s the most important piece right now and having less candidates in the race and defining it as a one-on-one race,” Sununu said in an interview on Sunday with Bloomberg Television.

New Hampshire so far presents the strongest opportunity for Haley — a former US ambassador to the UN — to upset Trump owing to the state’s more moderate electorate and the ability of undeclared voters to participate in the GOP primary.

Even so, a CNN poll released Sunday showed Trump with 50% support among likely Republican primary voters versus 39% for Haley. Both candidates have seen an increase in support since a previous survey earlier this month, when Trump had the backing of 39% of voters and Haley registered at 32%. DeSantis was at 6%, the CNN poll found.

Sununu dismissed characterizations that early contests in New Hampshire and Haley’s home state of South Carolina were make or break for her presidential bid, but said that she must notch wins in the Super Tuesday round of primaries on March 5. He said Trump has sought to frame the early primaries as must-win contests because the former president wants to end the nomination race early.

“I don’t think any of these early states are must wins for Haley,” Sununu said. “When you get to Super Tuesday, OK, now you really have to start winning states obviously. But as long as she keeps building on that momentum, I think there’s a lot of opportunity.”

Sununu has long been a staunch critic of Trump. In the Bloomberg Television interview, he cited Trump’s loss in 2020 to Joe Biden and said that the former president has hurt the Republicans’ ability to win congressional races.

“Because of that Trump brand, we’ve lost in 2018 and 2020 and 2022,” he said. “We’re just tired of that brand that just drags the rest of the Republican Party down.”

Trump has begun to look ahead to the Feb. 24 primary in South Carolina. On Saturday, in a jab at Haley, Trump was joined at a New Hampshire rally by current South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and several state lawmakers, a day after announcing the endorsement of South Carolina US Senator Tim Scott.

Sununu criticized Scott for endorsing the former president over Haley, who appointed Scott to the chamber in 2012, when she was South Carolina governor.

“Tim Scott wouldn’t be a senator without Nikki Haley,” he said. “That’s why what he did was so disrespectful.”

--With assistance from Stephanie Lai.

(Updates throughout with more comments from interview)

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