2022 is supposed to be a banner year for Republicans, so why are three of the region’s top Republicans having big contests?

If recent polls are to be believed, the 2022 midterm elections could be among the best ever for Republicans. So, while it’s unusual these days for Republicans to do extremely well in a deeply Democratic New England, if there was a time for an ambitious Republican to take a chance, it would be now.

Yet in less than a month, three of New England’s most popular Republicans bypassed the main polls.

First, it was New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu who turned down a chance to run for the US Senate. He was followed by Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, who hasn’t even received calls to participate in his state’s new Senate race following the retirement of Sen. Pat Leahy. And this week, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker decided he would withdraw himself from a major race by not seeking re-election for a third term.

While each have their own unique considerations, there are three similar themes in their decisions to pass on a more intimidating contest in a likely Republican wave year.

1. They didn’t want it

Let’s not overlook the most obvious reason here. All three basically came up with one version of the same points: They didn’t see themselves going through an intense campaign next year, or they didn’t really want to do the job if they were elected, especially to the Senate.

In Baker’s case, a campaign would likely have meant criticism from both right and left that could undermine his very high approval rating. And there’s the fact that his third term might still be busy with day-to-day COVID cases that would bring more protesters outside his home.

During his press conference in early November, Sununu made it clear that the more he investigated the role of senator in 2021, the more he did not want the job. Scott was less talkative about his decision to forgo a race, but his lifestyle and work in Washington would clearly be very different from that in Vermont.

2. They are foreigners in a foreign country

The three men are unique in American politics. They are Republican state governors who voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in the last five presidential elections. In fact, that trio and Maine Senator Susan Collins are the only Republicans to hold a prominent position in the Six-State area. Democrats hold the other three governor roles, eleven US Senate positions and 21 US House seats.

They also don’t fit Donald Trump at all. Everyone has openly criticized Trump – albeit to varying degrees. Baker and Scott did not vote for Trump. Sununu took a more balanced approach and appeared with Trump in public and avoided his anger.

But even if Sununu and Scott had won, say, a seat in the US Senate, they would have been in political trouble. They would never be as conservative as necessary to gain the leadership of this current Republican caucus. Indeed, they would be more likely to lose their re-election.

3. The role of their own ambition

Each of the three have different ambitions, but their long-term goals were obviously a factor in the decision not to seek the more intense election next year.

The question of ambition for politicians is reminiscent of the math for anyone considering a new job. They must be asking themselves: where does it all end up going?

Baker says he doesn’t want to run for president. Even if he did, there is no reason to think that running for office at this point would help him. Indeed, Mitt Romney did not even run for a second term to run for president himself. If Baker just wanted to become a valued governor, without any national ambition, resigning now likely locks in his high approval rating.

Scott, a millionaire and former racing driver, never said he wanted to serve in Washington. It is also very unclear whether Vermonters could ever vote for him knowing it could help Republicans win a majority in the Senate.

For Sununu, it was a different calculation. He said he was not averse to serving in cabinet or maybe even running for president himself. He just did not see running for the Senate as a way to help him access those roles.


James Pindell can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @jamespindell.


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