New Hampshire Gov. Sununu endorses Nikki Haley for president

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MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu endorsed Nikki Haley for president on Tuesday night, giving the former South Carolina governor a boost in a key early state.

“You bet your ass I am,” endorsing Haley, an energetic Sununu said to a cheering crowd packed into a ski lodge here.

“When you look at the poll numbers and you look at the ground game that Nikki has laid, it has been absolutely unbelievable,” Sununu said. “To see her out there, to see her connecting with folks, to feel that momentum — it is real, it is tangible.”

A beaming Haley walked out to a standing ovation and accepted Sununu’s endorsement with a warm embrace.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Haley said. “To go and get endorsed by the ‘Live Free or Die’ governor is about as rock-solid of an endorsement as we could hope for.”

Haley, though running far behind Donald Trump, has been steadily rising in polls of likely GOP primary voters in New Hampshire and sits in second place on average. Sununu, the popular governor, will now work to bring more moderate Republicans and independents who can vote in the GOP primary with him to her side.

“We’re just going a say a polite ‘thank you for your service, Mr. President.’ We’re moving on,” said Sununu, a supporter-turned-critic of Trump.

Rival campaigns downplayed Sununu’s endorsement in statements on Tuesday, arguing that the scion of a powerful political family in the state is just one person with limited influence.

“This puts us down one vote in New Hampshire,” Karl Rickett, a spokesperson for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, said in a statement. “When Governor Christie is back in Londonderry tomorrow, he’ll continue to tell the unvarnished truth about Donald Trump and earn that one missing vote and thousands more.”

But Sununu, who passed on running for president himself, pledged on Tuesday to go “all-in” for Haley. He took his first stab at that on Tuesday, drawing, as Haley joked, “all of Manchester” to see her at the McIntyre Ski Area.

In backing Haley, Sununu, a vocal Trump critic, is bypassing the field’s most forceful detractor of the former president: Christie. And he’s breaking with another early state governor, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, who is backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has all but abandoned the Granite State for Iowa.

“What happens in New Hampshire will be significantly impacted by the outcome in Iowa, where a true Trump alternative will emerge,” DeSantis campaign spokesperson Andrew Romeo said in a statement. “And when Ron DeSantis comes out in that position he will be joined by over 60 New Hampshire state legislators who stand read to take the fight to the establishment.”

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