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Sununu: Romney Is Going To Win In New Hampshire


Plenty of big name Republicans are backing Mitt Romney as he tries for victory in the primary here in New Hampshire. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was here, and so was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu was also supporting Romney.

We dropped by Sununu's house, where the Christmas decorations were still up and the NFL playoffs were on TV yesterday. A Mitt Romney ad flashed by on the screen as we talked. Sununu's favorite candidate is well ahead in the polls, though Sununu knows this state sometimes delivers a surprise.

What makes it unpredictable, if that's the word?

JOHN SUNUNU: I don't think unpredictable's the right word. I think what happens is it makes up its mind late. And in 1988, for example, when Senator Dole came from Iowa with a victory and Vice President Bush, I think, actually had come in third, it was waiting to see if there was anything that was going to truly differentiate between them.

The early polls, when Senator Dole came in, had him up. Dick Wirthlin, his pollster, was calling him Mr. President. And Vice President Bush went around and reaffirmed the relationship he had established by meeting people over the previous year. And there was the tide of change in the last day or two. So it wasn't unpredictability. It was late.

INSKEEP: Do you sense people making those decisions now, locking down their decisions now in New Hampshire?

SUNUNU: I think people have moved to lock down their decisions in New Hampshire, pretty much now. They waited as a courtesy, so much, through the last two debates. And I don't think they saw anything there to move them from wherever they might have been.

INSKEEP: Although, Mitt Romney has been in a commanding lead in this state for months, but just in the last few days, a Suffolk University tracking poll has shown an erosion in that support.

SUNUNU: Well, look, it's always going to close. You can't hold that size of a lead in New Hampshire. It's going to close. But Mitt Romney is going to win in New Hampshire and it's going to be a pretty good win.

INSKEEP: How has this state changed over the years - the past 10 or 20 years?

SUNUNU: Not much.

INSKEEP: Really?

SUNUNU: Yep. Most people don't understand New Hampshire. Look, the Democrats have had some electoral success. In 2008, they took control of the legislature.

INSKEEP: And this has become a presidential swing state, the last couple of elections.

SUNUNU: And it has. And it's because we as Republicans in the state didn't do things right. And I got a little bit ticked off at that. Went back to be state chairman in 2009 and '10. And we won back the two congressional seats. We held the Senate seat. So this state has gone back to its important results of having Republicans controlling the House, the Senate, the council.

It is a state that historically has been center right - conservative. It has, in the past, had Democratic governors. It had a Democratic governor that was very popular. And I think their success, and even their success in the presidential races, were because he was a pretty good leader of their party. But we've got a party now that's united. And New Hampshire will go - if Mitt Romney's the nominee - New Hampshire will go strong Republican in the general election.

INSKEEP: When you say Republicans weren't doing things right, what?

SUNUNU: Not nominating candidates well, a divided party, internal fighting, personality disagreements amongst the party leadership. All those trivial things that make huge impacts in American politics.

INSKEEP: Well, if it's a close national election, this could be a significant fact. Are you saying this is not going to be a swing state?

SUNUNU: This is not going to be a swing state if Mitt Romney's the nominee. The Democrats will abandon their effort in New Hampshire if Mitt Romney is the nominee and leave it to Republicans.

INSKEEP: Governor Sununu, thanks very much.

SUNUNU: Thank you.


INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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