Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson nears decision on 2024 presidential race

By: - March 28, 2023 1:22 pm

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke with reporters before his event at The Republic on Grand in Des Moines on March 27, 2023. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans to announce in April whether he’ll run for president, he told reporters Monday in Des Moines.

It was Hutchinson’s third trip to Iowa in 2023 and he’s hired a field organizer, indicating he’s likely to join the crowd of candidates seeking the 2024 Republican nomination. He said his events in March will help him solidify the final decisions heading into a potential presidential bid.

Hutchinson said he was looking at the visibility and finances of running a campaign in Iowa, but he said he’s not discouraged by the high-profile competition.

“I don’t have the nationwide name identification that some others from larger states, who have larger megaphones,” Hutchinson said. “But that’s what’s good about Iowa. That’s what’s good about the opportunity to convey a consistent, conservative message and your vision for the future.”

So far, former President Donald Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley are officially in the race and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence are weighing bids, among others.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz won the Iowa Republican caucuses in 2016, followed by Trump and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. The field isn’t as crowded in 2024 as it was then, and factors like the pandemic and Trump’s presidency will play a role as Republicans decide which candidate to support in the upcoming election, Hutchinson said.

“This is a different year than 2016,” he told reporters. “You’ve got the Trump factor … and so we don’t know who’s gonna get in, who’s gonna go out. And I think it’s critically important that you have multiple voices and options for the American voters and for the party.”

Hutchinson kicked off the trip speaking to the Iowa Bull Moose Club, an organization for Republicans under age 40, in Des Moines. Two more of his March stops will be with young conservative groups at Drake University. Hutchinson said if he decides to run for president, he’ll run a “future forward” campaign, in contrast to Trump.

While he does not agree Trump should face criminal charges in New York, he said Republicans should pick a different candidate for the upcoming election.

“The key fact is that we’ve got a candidate for president, former President Trump, that is really emphasizing his grievances,” Hutchinson said. “He’s emphasizing the past and how he’s been victimized, and I think we ought to look to the future.”

In his speech, Hutchinson told the group of 20 at the Bull Moose Club event about his track record as Arkansas governor and what he wants to see in America’s future. America needs to show strength by supporting Taiwan and Ukraine, he said, as well as address the fentanyl epidemic by securing the U.S.-Mexico border, and become energy independent.

He also said Americans need to stand up to “woke ideology” to create a better future. For example, he criticized public investment strategies that avoid industries such as fossil fuels and opposed allowing transgender athletes to participate in women’s sports. While America faces difficulties, Hutchinson said he was hopeful about the country’s future.

“I look at America, and America’s job’s not finished,” he said. “I believe our best days are ahead, I’m optimistic about our future, we just got to make some course corrections. And so we got to remind ourselves: We’re not done yet, and you’re a key part of the future.”

In earlier trips, Hutchinson met with Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa lawmakers and conservative groups in Des Moines and western Iowa. Hutchinson also has events planned with conservative groups in Adel and West Des Moines Tuesday and Wednesday, in addition to the Drake University stops.

This story was published earlier by the Iowa Capital Dispatch, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom network, which includes the Florida Phoenix.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.