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Mitt Romney gains key New Hampshire backer in John Sununu

October 23, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli | Washington Bureau
  • Mitt Romney speaks at his New Hampshire campaign headquarters in Manchester on Saturday.
Mitt Romney speaks at his New Hampshire campaign headquarters in Manchester… (Michael A. Memoli / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Manchester, N.H.   — The Mitt Romney bandwagon is getting crowded in New Hampshire, and a top Republican here says it's a credit to the GOP front-runner's deliberate approach in the state.

Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu became the latest boldfaced name to endorse Romney, an announcement that came on the front page of the Sunday Union Leader.

Sununu will join Romney on Monday when he files his paperwork with the secretary of state's office to become an official candidate in the New Hampshire primary. The former White House chief of staff, among the most prominent Republicans in the state, said in an interview that he'll "help in any way that they want," but that Romney is already well-positioned to win the state.

"I think they've got a good team in New Hampshire," Sununu said. "He's doing a good job of taking care of the details, which is the key to New Hampshire."

Romney has consistently led his GOP rivals by double-digit margins in New Hampshire. As the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, he held a similar advantage four years ago before John McCain made a rapid climb in the final weeks. The team has learned its lesson.

"You get surprised in New Hampshire if you take it for granted, and they're not taking it for granted," Sununu said.

Sununu served three terms as governor in New Hampshire, and then served for nearly three years as President George H. W. Bush's chief of staff. He chaired the New Hampshire Republican Party leading up to the 2010 elections, when Republicans won both congressional seats, a U.S. Senate seat, and romped in state legislative contests.

Sununu said he'd long expected to endorse one of the current and former governors in the presidential field. His decision was narrowed when several — Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour and Tim Pawlenty — took their names out of contention.

He had kind words for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but pointed to Romney's recent foreign policy address at the Citadel as the clinching moment.

Another former governor — Jon Huntsman of Utah — never was in consideration. Sununu told the Union Leader that he would consider only a "conservative Republican," which ruled Huntsman out.

Huntsman has staked his entire candidacy on a strong performance in New Hampshire, and earned some favorable coverage locally when he was the first to call for a boycott of Nevada's GOP caucuses because the initial date — Jan. 14 mdash; could have pushed New Hampshire's primary into December.

Sununu argued that Huntsman's boycott proposal was counterproductive.

"The key to the New Hampshire primary is maintaining cooperation with the other key states," Sununu said, and a boycott would have threatened that alliance.

Judd Gregg, a former senator and governor, endorsed Romney earlier this month. Romney also leads his rivals in support from state legislators.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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