Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire announced Tuesday that he’d decided not to challenge Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) in 2022, a huge break for Democrats in what could have become a potential Republican flip.
“I’d rather push myself 120 miles an hour delivering wins for New Hampshire than to slow down, end up on Capitol Hill debating partisan politics without results,” Sununu said at a live streamed event. “That’s why I’m going to run for a fourth term.”
“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,” Hassan campaign manager Aaron Jacobs told TPM. “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.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) former campaign manager and chief of staff was aghast.
McConnell personally lobbied Sununu to run after the popular governor cruised to a 30-point victory in 2020 in a state President Joe Biden also won fairly easily. Sununu is the son of a former governor and brother of a former senator, making his a household name in the Granite State.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, reportedly even flew in to fete Sununu personally.
Hassan unseated Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) in 2016 by just over 1,000 votes, making the seat a target.
A possible reprieve in New Hampshire, depending on who else jumps into the race, would be welcome to Democrats who’ll fight tooth and nail to maintain their effective majority in the 50-50 Senate next year.
They’ll have to defend some competitive terrain. Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia currently has the races in Georgia, Nevada and Arizona — all represented by Democratic incumbents — rated toss-ups.
But the map is dotted with potential Democratic pickups as well. Republican retirements in Pennsylvania and North Carolina have opened up those races, potentially to be joined by Wisconsin pending a decision from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on whether to run again.
Much may turn on the political climate come next fall. Democrats are shaken by last week’s gubernatorial loss in Virginia and squeaker win by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in New Jersey, and have pointed fingers at everything from intra-Democratic gridlock on Capitol Hill to the seemingly endless COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying economic difficulties.