At a news conference in Concord, N.H., Sununu, 47, said he appreciated those who had reached out but ultimately decided that he could be more “impactful” by staying in his current job rather than going to Washington.
“I like getting stuff done,” Sununu said. “I don’t think they could handle me down there. I’d be like a lion in a cage.”
Sununu said that there was “definitely a period where I was leaning toward running” for the Senate but that he concluded after consulting with others that being a senator “doesn’t fit my style.” He portrayed the Senate as a slow-moving institution rife with partisan politics.
“I’d rather push myself 120 miles per hour delivering wins for New Hampshire than to slow down, end up on Capitol Hill debating partisan politics without results,” he said, suggesting it would take years of “waiting around” in Washington before he’d have much influence.
Republicans need a net gain of just one seat in the evenly divided chamber to recapture control of the Senate, which they lost this year when Democrats prevailed in a pair of Senate runoff elections in Georgia.
But Republicans are defending 20 of the 34 Senate seats on the ballot next year, making the task more difficult.
In 2016, Hassan defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte by less than a percentage point to become the state’s junior senator. Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the state over Republican Donald Trump that year, as well.
Last year, Sununu won reelection with more than 65 percent of the vote over Democrat Dan Feltes. Sununu is the son of John H. Sununu, a former New Hampshire governor and former White House chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush.
In a statement, Hassan campaign manager Aaron Jacobs noted that Hassan won her last race by just 1,017 votes and that she is prepared for a “hard-fought” reelection, regardless of whom she faces.
“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,” Jacobs said. “Our campaign is ready for the challenge ahead.”
Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said late last month that he thought Sununu would run but was confident that Republicans would do well in the state even if Sununu did not.
“We will have a good candidate,” Scott said. “I mean, they can see that they can win.”
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee seized on Sununu’s decision Tuesday, calling it a “devastating failure” by McConnell and Scott to persuade Sununu to run for Senate.
“His decision reflects the strength of Senator Hassan’s record of accomplishment and shows that even the most sought after potential GOP candidates don’t want to run against strong Democratic Senators who are keeping their promises and delivering for their states,” DSCC spokeswoman Amanda Sherman-Baity said in a statement.
Asked during his news conference whether he had ruled out a future presidential bid, Sununu said he hasn’t “ruled out going to Washington” but did not want to go as a senator at this point.
Sununu said he is confident that another Republican can defeat Hassan next year but offered no endorsement of a particular candidate.
“At the end of the day, I feel very at peace with this decision,” he said.
Ahead of the election year, New Hampshire Democrats and allied advocacy groups have sought to highlight Sununu’s signing of a state budget in June that includes a ban on abortions after 24 weeks of gestation and mandatory ultrasounds for all women before a pregnancy is terminated.
The effort, which has included television ads targeting Sununu, has sought to blunt his claims that he is a pro-abortion rights Republican.
In a statement Tuesday, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley suggested that Sununu didn’t run for Senate because of a recent drop in his job approval ratings, which he argued was attributable in part to the abortion issue.
“Let’s be clear about why he didn’t run: His approval ratings are in free fall after signing an abortion ban and completely mismanaging our state’s handling of the pandemic,” Buckley said. “He has never been so unpopular and so vulnerable, and he is in trouble.”
Last month, Sununu told Manchester, N.H., television station WMUR that a Senate campaign would focus on fiscal responsibility and what he views as strong management skills.
“People know what I’m about and I’m pretty consistent,” he said. “It’s about bringing good management to the table in whatever you do — accountability, transparency and re-instilling public trust — data-driven decisions, not political.”
In recent weeks, Sununu had been considering whether to launch a Senate bid, seek a fourth two-year term as governor or return to the private sector.
Last week, ahead of an address at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership summit in Las Vegas, Sununu told Fox News that he wanted to make a decision by the holidays.
“I don’t want this weighing on me and on the citizens . . . over the holidays,” he said.