In Case You Missed It, WMUR’s John DiStaso wrote about how Chris Sununu’s attempt to have it both ways on vaccinations is leaving him politically isolated both from his own base and from Democrats and independents. In the column, DiStaso notes that Sununu’s inability to appease the anti-vaxxer mob and his failure to convince his Republican Executive Councilors to support the federal immunization contract yesterday could hurt him in a run for U.S. Senate.
NH Primary Source: Executive Council Republicans deal Sununu a political setback
By John DiStaso
TOUGH VOTE FOR THE GOV. Try as he might, Gov. Chris Sununu can’t distance himself far enough to escape political shrapnel from the Wednesday vote of the four Republican members of the Executive Council rejecting federal vaccine funds.
Not in the current political environment, certainly.
And then there’s real damage. The rejection of the $27 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act money will slow the state’s current struggle to increase its vaccination rate, according to the state’s public health services director.
Sununu said after the vote the number of vaccines available will not be affected, but the ease of availability will be hurt.
Aside from the practical effect of burdening the fight against COVID-19 in New Hampshire, there’s a political cost, as well.
Sununu criticized the Republican councilors for voting to reject the funds, saying, “Today’s vote by members of my own party on the Executive Council was a total disservice to the constituents we serve.”
Sununu told WMUR on Tuesday he did not try to lobby the councilors, did not “do any vote counting, per se,“ and “just tried to answer their questions clearly and concisely.”
The inability of Sununu to swing even one Republican council vote – let alone the two he needed to turn a 4-1 loss into a 3-2 victory -- leaves him open to criticism by Democrats that he reaped what he had sewn by supporting the four Republicans in their elections last November and by opposing the Biden administration’s COVID-related mandates.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party noted that Sununu himself has said that the funding through the American Rescue Plan was accepted by all 49 other states. And Sununu repeated that statement again on Wednesday afternoon
“The governor’s inability to convince his own party to accept federal funding for much-needed public health measures shows a complete lack of leadership and is a defeat for public health in our state,” said NHDP Chair Raymond Buckley.
Buckley noted that, according to CDC data reported by the New York Times, New Hampshire continues to rank last in New England in the percentage of the population who are fully vaccinated, at 62 percent.
Members of the congressional delegation criticized the GOP councilors and “Republicans” in general following the vote but did not target Sununu. They left it to the party to do that.
Hassan tweeted: “Once again, we are seeing dangerous behavior from Concord. Make no mistake: this is a vote against New Hampshire. It risks the health and safety of Granite Staters and our economy.”
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen tweeted, “NH Republicans are hurting our state’s ability to get to the other side of the pandemic and save lives. This reckless anti-science behavior must stop.”
U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster called the Republican Executive Councilors’ votes “unconscionable and dangerous,” while U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas – a former Executive Councilor – cited “an extreme majority on the Executive Council” in criticizing the vote.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Sununu, by pushing for acceptance of the funding, fell further out of the favor of libertarian-minded activists who saw the grant language as a threat to the state’s sovereignty and Sununu as having abused his power during the state of emergency he declared amid the pandemic.
“The founders of New Hampshire created the Executive Council as a check on the governor’s authority, and (Wednesday’s) vote shows the wisdom of that system,” said Andrew Manuse, chairman of RebuildNH.
“By supporting continued government overreach into private medical affairs, the governor was hoping he could continue bullying New Hampshire citizens to cater to his will, just like he did during the state of emergency last year, and it is about time to end his continual lust for power.”
Sununu, then, is in “a bad position,” said a longtime New Hampshire Republican strategist[...]
“This did not look good for him,” said the strategist, who is a strong Sununu supporter. “Chris Sununu can obviously recover from something like this, but he’s in a bad position. It’s a base issue with a lot of intensity to it, which is why the council voted as it did.”
The strategist said Democrats are trying to score political points in their relentless effort to drag down Sununu’s high approval ratings ahead of his potential announcement for the U.S. Senate.
Time will tell how if that turns out to be true, but Wednesday could be looked back on as a key, if not defining, day in a U.S. Senate race that has not even officially begun, yet.