What’s Asa Hutchinson planning to do after being evicted from the Governor’s Mansion next year? He’s going house hunting, and seeing if a big white one might be available.
The term-limited governor has been saying for a while that he’s considering a presidential run, and now he’s taking more specific steps to test the waters. In a press conference April 22, he said he will be traveling to various states over the next three to four months. He said each of the stops will have an economic benefit for Arkansas, but because he will be engaged in, hint-hint, other activities, the trips will be financed by his private political operation.
The governor’s multi-state tour included a stop April 25 in New Hampshire, site of the first Republican presidential primary in 2024.
Speaking at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, the governor previewed what his campaign themes might be. He closed by referring to the model offered by President Reagan, who he described as a “consistent, common sense conservative” who was pragmatic and optimistic.
“We need problem solvers and not chaos creators,” the governor earlier said.
Hutchinson touted his record in Arkansas during his seven years of office, which included tax cuts, his computer coding initiative, and keeping schools open during the pandemic. He noted that he recently had turned down $146 million in rental assistance funds from the federal government. He didn’t talk much about emotional, hot-button issues unless asked, and even then, his comments were restrained.
“I don’t like the idea of passing bills in a cultural war so we can fire up our base,” he said. “That, to me, is not the way I conduct politics.”
The governor has appeared on national TV a lot the past few years because of his middle-of-the-road approach to COVID and his willingness to criticize former President Trump. He has a national platform as chair of the National Governors Association.
He clearly does not want to retire. He is 71 years old, but he certainly appears to be a healthy septuagenarian who has weathered the pandemic’s stresses just fine. Besides, he’s a young pup compared to Presidents Biden, 79, and Trump, 75 (not to mention Speaker Pelosi, 82).
If he runs, he’d be a long shot to win the Republican nomination, as would anyone not named Trump. If Trump runs, Hutchinson could position himself as the traditional Reagan Republican candidate in what might be a small field. If Trump doesn’t run, Hutchinson could position himself as the same type of candidate in a huge field.
Hutchinson is not the only Arkansan interested in moving into a big white house. Sen. Tom Cotton has been appearing on national TV for years, and he’s been no stranger to places like Iowa or New Hampshire.
Cotton more easily fits into today’s click-driven political climate. He’s combative, aggressive and uncompromising. He does not mind firing up the base.
If you had to bet money on who will be president after 2024, your best odds would be to place it on Biden or Trump.
But you wouldn’t want to bet your life on it because you never know what might happen in an election. Biden, after all, was no sure thing after having badly lost in his previous presidential runs. Many people didn’t take Trump seriously at first. President Obama’s star was rising fast in 2008, but it was supposed to be Hillary Clinton’s year.
Sometimes a candidate just has to find a lane and stay there while the other candidates flame out or split their votes with each other. Eventually, a clear frontrunner emerges, and then he or she becomes the inevitable nominee.
That might be how Hutchinson, a Reagan Republican in a Trump era, can win. It’s a long shot, but when you’re house hunting, you might as well see if the one you really want is available.
Steve Brawner is a syndicated columnist in Arkansas. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevebrawner.