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Transcript: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on "Face the Nation," Feb. 12, 2023

Sununu previews potential presidential bid
Sununu previews potential presidential bid, says Americans are "looking for results" 07:10

The following is a transcript of an interview with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu that aired Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, on "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face The Nation. We're joined now by the Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu. And it's good to have you here--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --in person.

GOV. SUNUNU: Great to be here. Better here than the rest of Washington, because this whole town gives me the- it gives me the chills sometimes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you might need to go get over that if you're gonna run for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as apparently you are considering doing.

GOV. SUNUNU: Well look, a lot of opportunity to change things, right? I think New Hampshire has this awesome model of Live Free or Die: limited government, local control, individual responsibility, really putting the voters first. Send up some money, which is nice, but send them the regulatory authority to so little decentralizing out of Washington, and maybe a little better attitude would be- would be a good thing for America.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What's the proactive reason you want to be president, not something that President Biden is doing wrong--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --But something you want to achieve?

GOV. SUNUNU: Yeah- Which is the right question you're asking, by the way, because I- I- it drives me crazy when Republicans talk in an echo chamber about, you know, how bad the President is, and Democrats-- we got the memo as Republicans. You gotta be for something. What I'm trying to do is kind of show that New Hampshire model, show the opportunity to get stuff done. I've had Republicans in my legislature, I have Democrats in my legislature, I always get my conservative agendas done. All- we always cut taxes, we always balance a budget. And I can explain to folks in Washington what a balanced budget actually means. So there are paths. And I think America is looking for results. We need results driven leadership, not just leadership that--


GOV. SUNUNU: Look, whether it's cutting taxes, being pro-business, the regulatory reform, the immigration stuff that we were told was gonna happen in 2017 and 2018, as Republicans and it didn't.  We were told health care reform would happen, it didn't. We were told we're going to secure the border, and we didn't. So, there's all this great opportunity that has a domino effect, they're not just things to check off a list, but those things have huge impacts on the American economy, and most importantly, American families, right? They just want flexibility to do what they do and frankly, they're tired of the nonsense in D.C., they're tired of- of extreme candidates, they're tired of gridlock. They want somebody to come to the table, and it could be myself, it could be other governors, it could- but it has to be leadership with proven results. I've been in the private sector, as an engineer and a business leader, I've been in the public sector. You got to be able to deliver, and you got to, hopefully, be inspirational and hopeful as opposed to all this negativity, you see.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you still have to get the Congress to work with you to do that very long laundry list of things you just read off to us. So, when you were here in November, you told us that President Biden would not run for President, in your estimation. You just saw him up close for the past few days. Is that still what you believe? 

GOV. SUNUNU: Well, I know other people will definitely run, they're gonna get in the the race--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Democrats, you believe, will challenge him.

GOV. SUNUNU: Oh absolutely, yeah, yeah, because--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why do you say that? Did someone tell you that in the last few days?

GOV. SUNUNU: Well, Joe Biden has tried to move the first in the nation primary from New Hampshire, right? But we're gonna- we're going first whether the President likes it or not. And so that's going to be a huge opportunity for anybody who wants to step up and challenge him. And if you look at the polls across the country, the average Democrat says, yeah, thanks for your service on one term, but let's keep it to one term, President Biden and I just don't believe that Democrat, left wing Elite is going to sit on the sidelines, knowing you could come to New Hampshire, get all the earned media, all the attention, without a whole lot of money, all that political momentum. He's opened up his political flank, so to say, to give someone else a huge opportunity to charge right through and take that nomination from

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we'll see if your- if your projection plays out. You've been talking about trying to sort of remind the party that Republicans are about limited government. You said recently, 'Republicans are almost trying to outdo Democrats at their own game of being big government and having a solution and a say on everything.' Who were you thinking of when you say that?

GOV. SUNUNU: Oh, there's a lot- I think there's a lot of leadership out there that forget that forgets- at heart, I'm a principled free market conservative. Let the markets decide. So there's no individual per se, but there's a lot of leadership that says, you know what, when we're not getting that result out of a private business or locality we'll just impose from the top-down our conservative will.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're not talking about the Florida governor and Disney for example, are you?

GOV. SUNUNU: That's a bad example. Yeah, that's- one of the many examples-

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ron DeSantis may be running for president as well. 

GOV. SUNUNU: Sure, yeah, yeah. Look, Ron's a very good governor, he is, but I'm just trying to remind folks what we are at our core. And if we're trying to beat the Democrats at being big government authoritarians, remember what's going to happen. Eventually, they'll have power in a state or in a position and then they'll start penalizing conservative businesses and conservative nonprofits and conservative ideas. That is the worst precedent in the world. That's exactly what the founding fathers tried not to- tried to avoid. And so I'm trying to remind my conservative friends about federalism, free markets and being for the voter first, being for the individual. Do I like what every private business says? No, I hate this woke cancel culture. But it's a cultural--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that mean to you then?

GOV. SUNUNU: Woke cancel culture?


GOV. SUNUNU: Oh, it's- it's- look, it's--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you're not a culture warrior, really--

GOV. SUNUNU: No, no, but it's there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does woke- What does that mean in your platform?

GOV. SUNUNU: It's the- it's the divisiveness- divisiveness, we see not just in our schools, but in our communities. Where it is me versus you. Whereas if you are not adhering to my ideals, then I'm going to cancel you out. It is us versus them. It is this binary, where everything's a war. That's a cultural problem we have to fix in America and it starts with good leadership, good messaging, more hopeful and optimistic, but government never solves a cultural problem. 


GOV. SUNUNU: We can lead on it but we never solve it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Interesting idea, but you are contradicted by the Republican governor of Arkansas, who gave the response for your party after the State of the Union, who embraced culture war. She says America's in one. 

GOV. SUNUNU: Yes we are.

MARGARET BRENNAN: She says it's been waged by the left-wing, 'a woke mob that can't even tell you what a woman is.' 

GOV. SUNUNU:  That's absolutely right--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you going to engage on things like this? Like- like Sanders and DeSantis has in terms of issues on gender and issues of race?

GOV. SUNUNU: There should be absolute leadership on that, about what that's about. And this idea that, you know, you have to- you know, we have forced language, that we have forced ideas on our kids that we're going to force anything–-

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you are going to be a culture warrior? 

GOV. SUNUNU: No, we have to talk about that, but it isn't the government's role to solve it. The government is not here to solve your problems. It's not. The government is here to-- 


MARGARET BRENNAN: So, governors shouldn't be actually talking and engaging and telling school boards and doing things like this or trying to pass laws like they are?

GOV. SUNUNU: I don't think governors should be trying to pass laws to subvert the will of the voters that know better than us. Voters are no more than I do. The voters on that school board know, the voters in those towns know a lot more. And if- that's the free market of politics. If they don't like the school board, they get- they go to town meeting, they fire them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are- you call yourself a pro-choice Republican. You still have to win in a Republican primary. Is there room for someone who calls himself a pro-choice Republican?

GOV. SUNUNU: Look, that issue is- look, that issue is going to change three different ways now that Dobbs has happened, right? States can decide what they want to do, right? So I think the definition of pro-life and pro-choice and pro-abortion are going to be very different. Because if you're a pro-life Republican, that's fine. That's- as a governor, you can do that. You can ban it in your state, and you can stay- stand behind those ideals, and maybe that's exactly what your state wants, no problem. I'm a pro-choice Republican in a very pro-choice state. But at the end of the day, you're going to have the pro-life over here, pro-abortion over here, and then the rest of us are, well, 'We have a 24 week ban and you have a 22 week and an 18 week ban.' So the rest of us are kind of in this spectrum of debating about weeks, so that the whole conversation is going to change.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to talk about some of these issues in-depth with you in a moment, so stay with us governor. And we're going to bring in a panel of bipartisan governors with us.

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