New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has not declared he's running for president, but at a forum at the Tuck School of Business Monday evening he enthusiastically embraced a hypothetical bid for the White House.
And Tuck Dean Matthew Slaughter, who moderated the forum in Tuck's Raether Hall, gave the four-term Republican governor plenty of chances to describe what a Sununu presidential campaign would look like.
"Hypothetically, were you to run for president, first, why should Republicans pick you over the current poll leader Donald Trump, and second, why should all Americans favor you over President Biden?" Slaughter asked.
"Why should you favor me over Trump? … Really?" Sununu said to laughs.
"If you vote for somebody, it has to be that they can win, and get something done. That's it. As a Republican—I'll speak to the Republicans—you should vote for the most conservative candidate who aligns with our ideals, and can win in November," Sununu said, emphasizing the last three words.
In his four terms, Sununu said, he has worked with Democratic and Republican legislatures, giving a little to get a lot, not blaming either party for failing to compromise, to "always get something done. I can get a conservative agenda done with whatever hand I'm dealt."
More than 200 students, faculty, and staff filled the McLaughlin Atrium, with hundreds of Tuck alumni tuning in to the livestream, Slaughter said. The conversation with the governor was part of Tuck's "View From the Top" series, which brings leaders from business, politics, and public service to campus to share their insights with Tuck students.
The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy co-hosted the event through the Brooks Family Lecture Series. Members of the Brooks family were in attendance and posed for a photo with Sununu before the event.
Sununu called himself "a free-market guy" who, as a Republican, embraces the New Hampshire "Live Free or Die" credo through less government regulation and the belief that "the government is not here to solve your problems. I'm not here to solve your problems, I'm here to create as many doors of opportunity for you and your family and business and whatever it is."
In response to questions from Tuck students, Sununu said he supports abortion rights but believes that states should have the right to decide questions of access to abortion.
He has drawn criticism from Democrats for signing New Hampshire legislation that banned most abortions at 24 weeks of pregnancy.
On the issue of gun violence, he said gun regulations are not the answer, but instead a response to what he sees as a growing mental health crisis. He blames overregulation for the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and the current banking crisis, and on the question of the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he had choice words for two prominent figures.
"Don't get me started about Fauci, that's the real F-word," said Sununu, suggesting that physician Anthony Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was blinded by his own sense of importance. "There's one issue I would bring up to Trump on the debate stage. Fauci was a disaster. Nobody even knew that guy's name before Donald Trump came along. Why'd you leave us with him?"
After the program, Seamus Nolan, Tuck '24, said he appreciated the opportunity to hear the governor's perspective on issues that are likely to play a prominent role in the next presidential election.
"I think being in New Hampshire is such a special opportunity not only as a voter, but as a student. Just to be able to take part in this process and have the resources and access that we do, not only helps us be more informed, but also allows us to take this experience into the organizations that we go on to and will potentially lead," said Nolan, who next year will co-chair Tuck's student-run Business and Politics Club, which helped organize the Sununu event.
Destinee Mentor-Richards, Tuck '23, chatted with Sununu at the student reception following the event.
"As an MBA student it's a valuable opportunity to hear from people in the highest levels of leadership to understand and think through and broaden our commitment to what it means to lead," Mentor-Richards, the Tuck student body president, said after talking with Sununu.
Ava Giglio '19, Tuck '23, said since her days as an undergraduate during the 2016 presidential primary, she has appreciated the access to candidates and the commitment to the political process she found in New Hampshire.
Giglio recalled seeing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Spaulding Auditorium in 2015, and when she went to the polls at Hanover High School in 2022, after returning to Dartmouth to attend Tuck, one of the poll workers greeted her by saying, "welcome back."
"There's really a sense that the politics are an important part of what it is to live here, and it is really cool to be part of that," she said.
As New Hampshire governor, Sununu, who graduated from MIT in 1998 with an environmental engineering degree, is an ex officio member of the Dartmouth Board of Trustees.