Last week, I made a pre-election year pilgrimage to New Hampshire, where I was able to hit a lobster shack and drive around with Governor Chris Sununu for hours on end. Sununu, who is openly contemplating a run for the presidency (a “61 percent chance,” he told me), was about to reluctantly share his small, first-in-the-nation primary state with another aspirant for higher office, Ron DeSantis, who planned to swing through the next day as part of his early endorsement-gathering battle with Donald Trump.
It was a litmus test of sorts for Sununu, who’s had his own problems with state Republican legislators ever since he backed down on a deal to limit the length of time a governor can unilaterally call for a state emergency, which he did during Covid. So for now, it’s mostly Trump and DeSantis fighting for those endorsements in advance of the oncoming primary, which will formally initiate a Republican presidential race that already feels two years in the making. Sure, these endorsements matter less than they once did, especially since state reps “tend to be political neophytes,” as one New Hampshire presidential consultant told me. (“There are 400 of them. They can hardly find the statehouse, and oftentimes that is a good thing.”) But the symbolism still carries some weight. Jason Osborne, the legislature’s majority leader, actually left a pledge on Sununu’s desk last week asking him to endorse DeSantis, and it hasn’t been answered, I’ve been told.
Anyway, I’d come for Sununu but I was staying for DeSantis. The Florida governor, after all, is obviously one of the most important if enigmatic and sequestered national candidates of our age—a Harvard-Yale class warrior and apparently socially anxious former JAG who hired Jeff Roe and yet relies on the same provincial Tallahassee inner sanctum. I personally wanted to know if he was concerned about how his 6-week ban on abortion would impact his chances with voters. I also wanted to know if he was concerned that the issue constantly comes up on my calls with some of his biggest donors, tormenting the likes of Ken Griffin and Steve Schwarzman. And how the Disney battle plays with the libertarian crowd in the Live Free or Die state.