New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on Thursday said Donald Trump should “cowboy up” and stop threatening to skip GOP primary debates ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Trump is reportedly thinking of missing one or both of the first two Republican debates, according to The New York Times, in part because he doesn’t want to give his rivals a chance to stand out in the race.
But in an interview with CBS News, Sununu argued that Trump ought to show up.
“The message is just really clear, you know — cowboy up, get in the saddle,” the GOP governor said. “Show us what you got, because if you want to be the leader of this country and the leader of the free world, you’ve got to show that you can still bring your fastball.”
The former president has also allegedly taken issue with Fox News anchor Bret Baier moderating the first GOP debate, set for Milwaukee in August. The Times reported that he is further annoyed by the fact that the second event will be held in Southern California at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, which has Washington Post publisher — and previous target of Trump’s ire — Fred Ryan on its board of trustees.
Sununu said Trump’s latest public appearances, including in the state of New Hampshire, indicate that he no longer has the energy he once did.
“You don’t see the fire,” Sununu insisted, adding that Trump is now “playing a victim” following a New York grand jury’s decision to indict him over his role in a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 general election.
Still, the criminal charges against Trump have pushed the former president up in the polls, said Sununu, who conceded that Trump could end up being his party’s nominee for the White House.
“But my true belief is that Republicans are going to remember what happened in November of ’22 — remember the losses that we took with him, his candidates, and his messaging, and say, ‘We don’t want losers,’” Sununu added.
GOPers underperformed in last year’s midterm election, in part because multiple far-right candidates endorsed by Trump eventually flopped.
A few months ago, Sununu had appeared confident that Trump wouldn’t be the party’s choice for 2024.
“That’s just not going to happen,” he said in March.
Sununu, who has himself floated the idea of stepping into the 2024 presidential contest, told CBS News that he will make a decision by June.
If he chooses to run, Sununu could join a crowded field of candidates. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy have already launched campaigns, while Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) has announced an exploratory committee.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence are also expected to throw their hats in the ring.