Former New Hampshire governor John Sununu never lacked for candor, not in his home state nor when he served as chief of staff in the George H.W. Bush administration.
In a telephone interview, he told me that he was “a little surprised” Texas Gov. Rick Perry wasn’t better prepared on the Social Security question during Wednesday’s Reagan Library debate. “I got a little worried for him. If he is the nominee, the Democrats are going to have a silver bullet. I would have thought he’d have a strategy to mend what’s in the book,” he said in reference to Perry’s “Fed Up!”
Sununu said he has narrowed down his nominee choice to Perry or Mitt Romney and will make up his mind in mid- to late October after a series of debates. Why not former Utah governor Jon Huntsman? “He’s too in love with President Obama,” he said bluntly. “He’s got to get the courage to . . . join the rest of the Republicans to talk about the problems this president has caused.” He also found Huntsman’s remark on “nation-building at home” to be “ridiculous.”
As for President Obama’s jobs speech, Sununu thought the somewhat-angry tone stemmed from a desire to “have enough energy in the speech. It was an ‘I’m back from Martha’s Vineyard’ attitude.”
Sununu advised the Republicans to take the half-dozen or so job ideas they liked and pass those. But he found Obama’s insistence that Congress pass the legislation now “and I’ll tell you in two weeks how to pay for it” ludicrous.
As for the New Hampshire primary, Sununu explained that voters in the state “are willing to sacrifice a little on personal ideology” in order to find the most electable candidate, because they are “petrified of this president.” Sununu warned the presidential candidates that voters there are looking for substance. “There has to be sufficient detail to contrast with the policies that haven’t worked,” he said.
The GOP candidates would be smart to listen up. Sununu’s advice is worth taking, not only in New Hampshire but in all the states’ primaries.