As he launched Nikki Haley at a bar in Milford, N.H., Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire was in a snug place — surrounded by a swarm of media cameras and native voters.
“Oh my goodness, this thing is hot,” he mentioned into the microphone as his voice cracked within the audio system. He gave a whirlwind recap of his day crisscrossing the state with Ms. Haley and urged supporters to vote earlier than passing the mic. “I’m going to turn it over to the star,” he mentioned. “I’m just the lowly governor today. I’m the sherpa, as I like to say.”
Most endorsements of presidential candidates observe a typical path: a leaked announcement, an enormous speech within the highlight and occasional introductions at occasions. Mr. Sununu’s endorsement of Ms. Haley has not been like most endorsements.
Part hype man, half marketing campaign aide, half spokesman, half surrogate, half “new best friend” (his phrases), Mr. Sununu has been omnipresent on Ms. Haley’s marketing campaign.
They have steadily held joint interviews with reporters. His remarks at occasions typically final practically so long as hers. And he sometimes takes his personal crack at answering a query that had been posed to her. (He usually precedes his pleasant interjection with “If I may …”)
It can at occasions seem like a partnership, or perhaps a presidential ticket. Ms. Haley often sings his praises — “How cool is your governor?” she requested in Rindge on Saturday — and Mr. Sununu often tries to remain deferential.
“I’m no national figure,” he mentioned in an interview. “When I walk into the room, all eyes are on her, as they should be. And she’s the star and she’s been great. I might know more people by first name, but they’re not there to see me.”
When Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida dropped out of the race on Sunday and endorsed Donald J. Trump — turning into the second onetime rival to take action in current days — Ms. Haley appeared more and more remoted as outstanding Republicans coalesced across the former president.
Except for Mr. Sununu.
“He’s putting his shoulder to the wheel, that’s for sure,” mentioned Steve Duprey, a former Republican National Committee member from New Hampshire.
Mr. Sununu, a reasonable political scion within the state who hardly ever seems in public with no extensive grin on his face, is having fun with what appears to be the top — for now — of greater than two years within the nationwide highlight.
Elected as governor in 2016, he first teased nationwide Republicans with the prospect that he might flip one in all his state’s two Senate seats in 2022, earlier than selecting to run for governor once more. Then he floated a 2024 presidential bid, garnering headlines and cable news specials. Without a foothold in polling or a transparent path to victory, he determined in opposition to it.
For at the very least another day, he’s probably the most influential ally of Mr. Trump’s lone remaining Republican challenger. An upset victory by Ms. Haley in New Hampshire would burnish his standing amongst Republicans trying to transfer on from Mr. Trump. A loss by Ms. Haley, nonetheless, could be an extra repudiation by Republican voters of the form of conservatism Mr. Sununu preaches.
Mr. Sununu professes to be unworried about Mr. Trump’s lasting affect on the get together.
“Trump is not a real Republican,” Mr. Sununu mentioned within the interview. “Is he fiscally conservative? No. Does he believe in smaller government? No.”
Mr. Sununu appears content material to finish his intraparty campaign in opposition to Mr. Trump after he leaves workplace early subsequent 12 months: “My full plan is to go back into the private sector.” But he doesn’t seem ready for a complete vanishing act.
“I like this media stuff,” he mentioned in his interview with The New York Times, which was sandwiched amongst an look on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” a podcast hit and a Bloomberg interview within the span of 90 minutes. “I have my quiet criticisms on the media and I’ve gotten to see how they do it, what they do, how they work. And some things I’m impressed by. And some things I’m not. So I thought, oh, maybe I could add a little bit of color to what the media is currently doing and maybe enhance that game.”
Even if Ms. Haley is humbled on Tuesday, Mr. Sununu will not be carried out with electoral politics.
“He took her from Triple-A to major-league three or four weeks ago when he endorsed,” mentioned Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist who has run many main campaigns by New Hampshire, together with former Senator John McCain’s bid in 2000. “He’ll leave office a very successful, multiterm governor. You’ll have a lot of New Hampshire offers. You know, they wanted him for Senate last time. They can always want him another time.”
Mr. Sununu’s endorsement of Ms. Haley in December was a serious second for her in New Hampshire, the place Mr. Trump has led polls however appeared extra weak. And it has given the governor a style of the limelight that he would have skilled if he ran himself.
“It’s like fantasy football,” mentioned Thomas D. Rath, a former state legal professional basic and a longtime Republican strategist. “I think part of him really wanted to try the bigger game, but I think he was realistic enough to say that’s not going to work. So this is probably the next best thing.”
Mr. Sununu insisted that he had no regrets about not working. “I definitely more than scratched the itch and it’s not for me, it’s really not,” he mentioned. “It’s not for my family.”
But he has eagerly jumped into Ms. Haley’s marketing campaign.
While she has usually averted reporters’ questions, Mr. Sununu hardly ever bats away any. “Nobody cares,” was his response to a shouted query about Senator Tim Scott’s endorsement of Mr. Trump, earlier than the Haley marketing campaign had commented publicly.
He spent a part of Saturday as chauffeur, driving Ms. Haley to a Chick-fil-A in Nashua in his crimson 1966 Ford Mustang convertible, although the highest was up amid snow flurries.
Mr. Sununu has hardly ever met a voter he is not going to have interaction. At a diner in Amherst, he mentioned teenage vernacular with Griselle Maya, 41, of Merrimack.
“My kid just says, ‘Brahh,’ for entire sentences, and the tone of the ‘brah’ is how you’re supposed to interpret what he means,” Mr. Sununu mentioned with a chuckle. Ms. Maya, sitting together with her daughter, laughed in settlement.
Ms. Maya mentioned she was an enormous fan of his. She remained undecided on Ms. Haley.
Mr. Sununu’s private feed on X, previously Twitter, is a waterfall of pro-Haley propaganda, like a Swiftie whose solely period is “Nikki Haley for President.”
The two share many mutual pursuits — “we’re both ’80s and ’90s kids,” he mentioned — together with a love of rock music. Ms. Haley has expressed admiration of Mr. Sununu’s entrance track, “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses.
Of course, his full-throated assist for Ms. Haley has drawn the ire of a very highly effective and vengeful member of the Republican Party.
“I think your governor sucks,” Mr. Trump advised a crowd on Friday. He added: “He was on every show, this guy. He thinks he’s hot stuff. He’s nothing. He’s nothing.”
Monica Burns, 78, a retiree from Brentwood, N.H., and an unbiased voter who helps Mr. Trump, mentioned she had been delay by Mr. Sununu’s endorsement of Ms. Haley and his perspective towards the previous president.
“I’m not happy,” Ms. Burns mentioned. “I don’t think he’s ever been a Trumper. And so that really rubs me the wrong way. He’s been a decent governor, no doubt, but it really bothers me that he’s not for Trump.”
Mr. Sununu, whose approval scores stay excessive, shrugs off such criticism.
“My sense is when he’s kind of off that national stage,” he mentioned, “we can get back to actually good government again.”
Michael Gold contributed reporting from Concord and Portsmouth, N.H., Anjali Huynh from Hooksett, N.H., and Neil Vigdor from Kingston, N.H.