Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson Mounts Anti-Chaos Strategy by: Worth Sparkman, Axios NW Arkansas
April 7, 2023
This article originally appeared on Axios.
"Cool Hand Luke" is former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson's favorite movie because it deals with the eternal struggle for justice.
He's wrestled with that concept his entire career, starting in 1982 as a U.S. district attorney in 1982.
Driving the news: Hutchinson just announced his long-expected bid for president on ABC's "This Week." He sat down for an in-person interview with Axios Northwest Arkansas on Thursday in a small Rogers office crammed with political artifacts.
State of play: Of the four GOP candidates vying for the Oval Office so far, Hutchinson believes his clear foil to ex-President Trump will help blaze his path.
He sees this week's indictment of the ex-president as a "distraction" that contributes to chaos and divisiveness in U.S. politics.
"I know that a number of other candidates that were planning on getting [into the race] have postponed," he told us.
What he's saying: Hutchinson has been spending time in Iowa in hopes of a strong showing in the 2024 primary there. Outside of Arkansas, he thinks Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi could be strong supporters.
"They've seen how I stood up, lowered taxes, went against the grain when needed and reduced the size of government."
Zoom out: The Arkansas Republican is not yet a household name, but his no-conflict, shoe-leather campaign style will make up for that, he hopes.
"I think you break out of the pack by bold ideas about our future and hard-working retail politics in key states."
From his vantage point, Hutchinson sees two issues the U.S. must contend with: The economy and the relationship between China and Russia.
In pre-announcement discussions, he's observed that voters are focused on "substantive issues" rather than Trump, he said.
Questions from voters in Iowa and California on his recent exploratory trips have largely focused on energy costs, the economy and even the Jones Act, a 1920 law that related to maritime cargo transport, he said.
Between the lines: Hutchinson couldn't fundraise until he officially jumped into the race but said his campaign has a staff of 10.
The America Strong and Free Super PAC founded to support his bid was seeded with $1 million from a Little Rock donor in February.
Context: In addition to his time as a district attorney, Hutchinson served in the U.S. House and was administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency.
He was the first undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and chaired the National Governors Association his last year in office.
What to watch: Hutchinson is planning a "formal announcement" on April 26 in Bentonville, where he'll present the first glimpse of his platform.
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