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Asa Hutchinson Joins Race for Republican Nomination | Elections

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is running for president, the veteran Republican official said Sunday, making him the fourth person to get into the 2024 GOP primary race and the first contender to say openly that former President Donald Trump has no business running again and should drop out of contention.

“I am going to be running. And the reason, as I’ve traveled the country for six months, I hear people talk about the leadership of our country, and I’m convinced that people want leaders that appeal to the best of America and not simply appeal to our worst instincts,” Hutchinson told ABC’s “This Week,” adding that he would make a formal announcement later in the month in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Hutchinson, 72, joins Trump, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and former tech and finance executive Vivek Ramaswamy in the emerging GOP filed for president. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and others are also mulling a run.

Complicating and overshadowing the developing nomination fight is the indictment last Thursday of Trump, who will face charges in New York related to the hush money payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump may also face additional federal and state charges on other matters.

But unlike other announced and potential primary candidates, Hutchinson has unabashedly declared that Trump should not be running for another term in the White House. Previously, Hutchinson said Trump should not run if he is indicted, and Sunday, the former governor underscored that view.

“For the sake of the office of the presidency, I do think that’s too much of a sideshow and distraction, and he needs to be able to concentrate on his due process – and there is a presumption of innocence,” Hutchinson told ABC.

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Other candidates and potential candidates, meanwhile, have aligned themselves with the common GOP line that the New York case is a “witch hunt” and that Trump is being unfairly prosecuted for partisan political purposes.

Hutchinson’s approach will likely alienate the hard-core group of Trump supporters who can’t stomach any criticism of their favorite candidate. But if Trump’s star falls rapidly – or if he is convicted of a crime – Hutchinson could end up being the more prescient-looking Republican, and one more palatable to independents and swing Democrats whose votes any Republican contender would need to win in a general election.

The 72-year Hutchinson is more of a traditional GOP candidate of an earlier era, serving in Congress (where he was one of 13 House managers of the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton), as a U.S. attorney, an undersecretary in the Department of Homeland Security and as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration before becoming Arkansas governor. None of those jobs, notably, was given to him by Trump.

Since Hutchinson – unlike Pence, Haley, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, another possible contender – has no connection to Trump’s administration, he could emerge from the pack as a Republican who would not remind voters of Trump and the tumultuous era of his presidency and post-presidency legal troubles.

While Hutchinson has clashed with his party on occasion, including by vetoing a bill that banned gender-affirming care for transgender minors, he also has a solid and consistent conservative record, analysts say, that could make him an appealing second choice if Trump is eliminated from the 2024 competition.

“He has been a bedrock of conservatism for almost 40 years now,” says Bill Vickery, a veteran Arkansas Republican operative who has known Hutchinson since the 1980s. “It’s rare that you find someone like that who has not just clung to their beliefs but has quadrupled down on conservative beliefs for a long period of time.”

Hutchinson now barely registers in GOP primary polls, but if the contest ends up with voters looking for an alternative to all things Trump, Hutchinson’s star could rise, Vickery and others say.

“I do believe that it says something that he is unwilling to succumb to the short-term, political sugar high of a bombastic statement” about the investigations of Trump, Vickery says. “He’s more interested in the real vegetables, meat and potatoes of long-term analysis. That might not provide the same political jolt. But it is better in the long run.”

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