John Sununu, who formerly chaired New Hampshire's Republican party and served as the state's governor, has been getting a lot of notice lately, for who he thinks might do well in the nation's first presidential primary. In several interviews, he appears to build-up former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, while taking swipes at outgoing Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, Jr. Huntsman is a Republican serving in the Obama Administration, who is also rumored to be considering a presidential run in 2012.
Wednesday, Sununu, who is credited with a huge NH GOP sweep in 2010, signaled out Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels as four early frontrunners in his state, with Romney at the head of the pack. Earlier this month, Sununu was quoted by Real Clear Politics for saying: "Huntsman won't play well here. Huntsman won't play well anywhere, because Huntsman's only barely a Republican" and "Huntsman's too liberal, comes with the tarnish of having accepted the appointment from Obama. He's never said anything really conservative in his life. How's he going to win in a conservative primary? He can't. Huntsman is, in my opinion, a non-player".
Now, Huntsman backers are pushing back to bolster the reputation of Utah's former governor, while Huntsman finishes up his post overseas and can't be seen in campaign mode while still a diplomat. Here is what a Republican strategist who supports Jon Huntsman Jr. had to say, when Fox News asked about what appears to be a pattern: "Without even entering the race, Huntsman's solid conservative credentials as an effective two-term governor in one of the reddest states in the country clearly has the Romney campaign and their establishment surrogates frightened."
People preparing to support a potential Huntsman run have a lot of Senator John McCain campaign connections in their backgrounds. So, it's probably natural the reaction pointed to the fact that Sununu did not endorse McCain, who won New Hampshire primaries in 2008 and 2000: "As for Sununu's comments, he's clearly fallen out of touch with his own state and his endorsement record speaks for itself. His time would be better spent explaining how Romneycare is different from Obamacare." Both Romney and Huntsman's home states, Massachusetts and Utah respectively, passed some form of healthcare reform, but final versions included differences regarding mandates.
An interview request has been placed with Sununu, who is traveling as of this writing. Watch this space for updates.