Back in the fall, despite favorable political winds for their party and a heavy courtship, Senate Republicans were unable to convince New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu to jump into the race against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, one of their top 2022 targets.
Sununu, now preparing to run for reelection this fall, opened up on his decision during an interview with the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker. To hear Sununu tell it, he was “pretty close” to entering the Senate contest. But then he spoke to his potential colleagues.
Sununu said of the Senate Republicans he had talked with: “They were all, for the most part, content with the speed at which they weren’t doing anything. It was very clear that we just have to hold the line for two years. OK, so I’m just going to be a roadblock for two years. That’s not what I do.”
Sununu’s candid comments underscore an increasingly clear political reality: If Republicans take control of one or both chambers of Congress in November, legislating in Washington will all but grind to a halt until the next election in 2024.
Republicans have little political incentive to work across the aisle with a President who is currently broadly unpopular and loathed by their base. Exhibit A: The 32 House and Senate Republicans who voted for Biden’s infrastructure bill last year have been met with ridicule from former President Donald Trump and his allies.
Instead, some GOP members of Congress are preparing for a possible power shift by “plotting an onslaught of investigations into the Biden administration and promising to make the final two years of Biden’s first term in office as painful as possible for Democrats in the run-up to 2024,” CNN’s Melanie Zanona and Manu Raju recently reported.
While obstructing Biden may be advantageous from a purely political standpoint, it doesn’t create an appealing work environment for every would-be candidate – especially those who have served as governors. The transition from chief executive to one of 100 has proved challenging for members of both parties. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who formerly served as governor of West Virginia, told GQ in 2018: “My worst day as governor was better than my best day as senator.”
It’s also important to note that Sununu may have greater ambitions in mind, as he has not ruled out a future run for president. He appears to be betting that continuing to build up his resume outside Washington rather than trying to become a backbench senator would better serve him on the national stage, should he choose to go that route.
The Point: A GOP-led House or Senate likely means very little would get done in Washington in the two years before the 2024 presidential contest. Not every ambitious Republican politician is eager to be a part of that.