Former Arkansas Governor Hutchinson Is Running for President

From a Washington Post story by Meryl Kornfield headlined “Republican Asa Hutchinson announces he is running for president”:

Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson announced Sunday that he will run for president in 2024, a move that comes after he has marketed himself in televised interviews and events as a more stable alternative to former president Donald Trump.

“I have made a decision, and my decision is I’m going to run for president of the United States,” Hutchinson said in an interview on ABC’ “This Week.” He added that his formal announcement will come in April, in Arkansas, but he wanted to clarify that he is running. “And the reason is, I’ve traveled the country for six months, I hear people talk about the leadership of our country. I’m convinced that people want leaders that appeal to the best of America, and not simply appeal to our worst instincts,” he said.

The former Arkansas governor said in the ABC interview that Trump, who has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, should drop out of the race due to that development.

Hutchinson, 72, has butted heads with Trump before when he vetoed legislation that would ban gender-affirming care for minors in Arkansas and stood out among Republican governors for reconsidering mask mandates during the coronavirus pandemic. And now Hutchinson is making the case that Republican voters should pick him out of a growing field of GOP contenders, an argument that could be difficult to make for the unassuming former governor as other candidates vie for media attention, analysts said.

Hutchinson will begin as an underdog in a field that includes Trump, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy. Trump is the clear polling leader, public opinion surveys shows. Other Republicans such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may also join the race in coming months.

The Arkansas native has spent much of his political career serving the South Central state, beginning as a federal prosecutor under former president Ronald Reagan and then as a congressman. Hutchinson was governor for eight years — the term limit — and left office on Jan. 10. He also served in former president George W. Bush’s administration as the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration and an undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Since leaving the governor’s mansion, Hutchinson has spent much of his time promoting himself to voters outside of his state. He has appeared on Sunday talk shows and visited Iowa, South Carolina and Arizona. Hutchinson told The Washington Post in December before he left office that he had assembled a key policy team on the ideas he thinks are important for the country, referencing his America Strong and Free PAC, and was exploring a presidential bid. He has tried to distinguish himself — but at the same time, he has also harshly criticized Trump, saying the Jan. 6 riot “disqualifies” the former president from returning to the White House.

“The temptation is to become the loudest voice in the room to draw more attention,” Hutchinson previously told The Post, seeming to reference Trump. “That’s not my style, and I don’t think that’s what the electorate expects.”

Hutchinson might encounter challenges in fundraising compared to other potential candidates from states with deeper-pocketed donors, such as DeSantis, said Robert Coon, a Republican strategist in Arkansas. Last year, his PAC raised more than $127,000, while DeSantis’s fundraising broke records in his reelection race, hauling in $200 million.

Hutchinson has contrasted himself with Trump in interviews. He was one of the most senior Republicans at the time to condemn a meeting Trump held with white nationalist Nick Fuentes in November, comparing it to his prosecution of white supremacists in the Ozark Mountains when he was a U.S. Attorney in the 1980s.

“The last time I met with a white supremacist, it was in an armed standoff. I had a bulletproof vest on, we arrested them, prosecuted them, and sent them to prison,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash. “So no, I don’t think it’s a good idea for a leader that’s setting an example for the country or the party to meet with an avowed racist or anti-Semite.”

Rett Hatcher, a GOP strategist in Arkansas who previously worked as a legislative director for Hutchinson, said the Arkansas governor showed leadership qualities in his handling of the pandemic. The state did not close compared to its Democratic counterparts, but Hutchinson encouraged masking and vaccinations in ways other GOP governors did not, Hatcher said. Hutchinson’s daily televised news conferences were well-watched, Hatcher said.

“I think he is the same person in public that he is in private,” Hatcher said. “There’s an authenticity with him, and people respond to that.”

Meryl Kornfield is a staff writer on the general assignment desk of The Washington Post.

Speak Your Mind