GOP Senate leaders Rick Scott and Mitch McConnell failed to get their top recruit for 2022.
New Hampshire GOP Gov. Chris Sununu announced Tuesday that he will not run for Senate — a major blow to his party's effort to regain the majority in 2022. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott had been trying to recruit him for months.
In a press conference, Sununu acknowledged that GOP leaders had been going to great efforts to get him to run against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan next year. But citing the "gridlock and politics of Washington," he suggested the job did not appeal to him. Instead, he said he would seek a fourth two-year term as governor.
After losing the majority in the Senate in 2020, McConnell (R-KY) and Scott (R-FL) seized on Sununu as a candidate who would be uniquely able to win a swing state.
"He'd be a great candidate," McConnell said in May. "We're hoping he'd make the race."
"If he runs, we'll win," bragged Scott.
In August, Scott predicted that Sununu would indeed run for Senate. "I think he will because he's a patriot. He knows the problems of this country, and I think he's going to run," he told a New Hampshire radio station.
Polls showed Sununu consistently leading in head-to-head match-ups against the first-term Hassan in a state President Joe Biden won by 7 points last year.
But the same polls showed that Hassan leads the only major announced candidate — unsuccessful 2020 Republican Senate hopeful Don Bolduc — in a potential race.
She also polled ahead of former Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, whom she narrowly defeated in 2016. Ayotte also announced Tuesday that she will not seek a rematch.
Still, Hassan's campaign manager said Tuesday that they are prepared to fight hard for reelection.
"Senator Hassan won her last race by 1,017 votes, and we know that no matter who emerges as the Republican nominee this is going to be a hard-fought race," Aaron Jacobs wrote in a press statement. "The Senator has shown that she can work across the aisle to get results for Granite Staters — and that is why she has a record of winning tough races. Our campaign is ready for the challenge ahead."
With the Senate currently at 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans — and presided over by Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris, who can vote to break ties — Republicans would only need to pick up a single seat to regain the majority.
During the last Congress, McConnell used his position as majority leader to block nearly all legislation from even getting a vote on the Senate floor. As minority leader this year, he and his caucus have used the filibuster rule to block consideration of most of Biden's legislative agenda.
Sununu cited this as a key reason he did not want the job of U.S. senator, observing that in the Senate, "too often, doing nothing is considered a win."
On Tuesday, Sununu urged reporters to break the news of his decision to McConnell and Scott. "I guess you'll have to let them know. I haven't talked to them," he said.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.