GILFORD, N.H. – It was a moment that symbolized the desire by many Republicans for New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu to challenge Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in next year’s midterm elections.

The three-term governor was addressing a crowd of conservative leaders and activists at a Belknap County GOP dinner and fundraiser this past weekend when a person in the crowd yelled out “Senate.”

Sununu, unfazed, quickly responded, “We’ll get to that.”


With the GOP needing a net gain of just one seat in the 2022 midterms to regain the majority they lost in last cycle’s contests, the looming Senate battle in New Hampshire could ultimately decide whether the Democrats or the Republicans control the chamber come 2023.

National Republicans view Hassan, a first-term senator and Sununu’s predecessor as New Hampshire governor, as vulnerable heading into next year’s midterms. And they see Sununu, whose poll numbers remain sky high among Republicans and very healthy among independents, and who’s carefully navigated his relationship with former President Trump the past six years, as their key to flipping a crucial blue seat red.

“I think Chris is a doer, and I think he’d be a great senator. I know he’d win the race,” Sen. Rick Scott of Florida told Fox News in an interview.


Scott, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is the Senate reelection arm, headlined the Belknap GOP event, as part of a jam-packed Saturday for the senator in the Granite State. Fellow governors for two years before Scott’s election to the Senate in 2018, Sununu praised his friend as he introduced the senator the event, and Scott returned the favor in his address.

“I hope he runs for the Senate, and I’m going to do my best to get him there,” Scott told Fox News in a national exclusive interview minutes after his speech. 

And he predicted, “I think he’s going to do it.”

Sununu has long been a critic of politics in the nation’s capital, but Scott said his message to the governor is, “You can make a difference… I think you can get things done…you just have to work at it every day.”

A Hassan-Sununu face-off would be one of the most competitive, crucial and expensive Senate showdowns in next year’s midterms. Hassan’s already building a formidable war chest, and Sununu has never had to haul in big bucks in New Hampshire’s typically modest-dollar gubernatorial contests.

But Scott touted that if Sununu jumps into the race, the money will be there to back him up.

“I can tell you across the country, people want Chris Sununu to run,” he emphasized.


Scott and Sununu met privately for roughly 20 minutes ahead of their public appearance together at Gunstock, a ski resort in the mountains on the southside of Lake Winnipesaukee. The meeting appeared to be part of a full-court press by national Republicans to try and convince Sununu to launch a Senate campaign. 

That lobbying effort includes phone calls from Senate GOP Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and other prominent Republicans. Even Trump, who seven months removed from the White House remains very popular with Republicans as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in GOP politics and repeatedly flirts with another presidential run in 2024, has said he’d “like to see” Sununu challenge Hassan.

But Sununu is in no rush to make any decisions on whether to run for the Senate, seek reelection to a fourth two-year term steering New Hampshire, or not run for anything in 2022 and return to the private sector, where he once worked as an environmental engineer and managed the Waterville Valley ski resort, where the Sununu family is the principal owner.

Asked about his Saturday meeting with Scott, the governor told Fox News, “I made it really clear to him a long time ago that I wasn’t going to make any decisions for quite a long time. So we spent about 20 minutes together today, just more catching up as old friends than anything. He knows I’m not making any decisions. I have no idea what I’m going to do.”

Sununu, the son of former three-term governor John H. Sununu – who also served as President George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff – and younger brother to former Sen. John E. Sununu, has been repeatedly saying in local interviews that it’s going to be a while before he makes any announcements, potentially as late as winter.

“I’m not sitting at home really thinking about this right now,” the governor stressed. “When people have called to ask me to run, we’ve had five-minute conversations and that’s about it.”

“If at some point it I think that this might be something I’m interested in doing, I’d really get into the nuts and bolts of how things really work down there to make sure it’s got to work for me, because if it wouldn’t work for me, it wouldn’t work for the state. And if that’s the case, it isn’t worth doing.” Sununu said. “It has to be for the right reasons and at the right time, but we are way, way far away from that and a lot of things are going to change between now and whenever that is.”


Sununu said the lobbying from inside the Beltway “doesn’t matter. I’m not beholden to anybody in Washington, D.C. I think everybody knows that. I care about the 603.”

New Hampshire Democrats disagree and are using the lobbying effort by national Republicans to target Sununu, their nemesis dating back to his first gubernatorial victory in 2016.

“Mitch McConnell and Rick Scott are doing everything they can to entice Chris Sununu to run for U.S. Senate because they know that Sununu would be a rubber stamp for McConnell’s extreme, toxic agenda,” longtime state Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley told Fox News in a statement. “If Chris Sununu runs for the U.S. Senate, it will have everything to do with helping Mitch McConnell win back power, and it will have nothing to do with New Hampshire.”

Sununu, as he’s done in other interviews, spotlighted that his day job takes precedence over political decisions. 

“There’s a lot to manage right now. That’s where my focus is,” Sununu said as he pointed to preparations ahead of a likely increase in COVID-19 cases in the state this autumn, new budget implementations, new behavioral health initiatives, and other items on his to-do list as governor.

Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan makes a stop in the northern New Hampshire city of Berlin on April 7, 2021. The former governor and first term senator is running for reelection in 2022.

Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan makes a stop in the northern New Hampshire city of Berlin on April 7, 2021. The former governor and first term senator is running for reelection in 2022.

Hassan, who lives in the same small Seacoast town of Newfields as Sununu, faced similar pressure as governor to run for the Senate. 

In 2015, national Democrats urged her to take on then-GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Hassan announced her bid in October of that year, following the end of a long budget standoff between her and the then-GOP-controlled state legislature. She edged Ayotte in the 2016 election by a razor-thin margin of just over 1,000 votes.

Hassan and her campaign have spotlighted the senator’s bipartisan chops as she starts gearing up her reelection bid. 


“The biggest strength that our campaign has is Sen. Hassan’s record of working across party lines and delivering for the people of New Hampshire,” Hassan campaign manager Aaron Jacobs said earlier this summer.

And Jacobs pledged, “We’re going to be ready no matter who our opponent is.”

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