There is another Republican in the 2024 presidential race: Asa Hutchinson, until recently the governor of Arkansas. Hutchinson announced his candidacy on Sunday, Politico reports, and took dead aim at frontrunner Donald Trump — suggesting the former president should drop out of the race now that he has been indicted on criminal charges in New York.
"I mean, first of all, the office is more important than any individual person," Hutchinson told ABC News. "And so 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."
That almost certainly won't happen. Instead, Hutchinson joins a growing crowd running for the GOP's presidential nomination in 2024 — a group that includes Trump, obviously, but also former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. (Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is clearly preparing to run, but hasn't formally made an announcement yet.) But Hutchinson is probably the most openly anti-Trump candidate in the field. USA Today reports that Hutchinson says Trump shouldn't be the nominee "because of how democracy was undermined on January 6 … and how he seems to lead with chaos versus the best interests of the country."
Hutchinson, 72, has been on the national political scene a long time: In the late 1990s — as a U.S. congressman from Arkansas — he was one of the leaders in the effort to impeach then-President Bill Clinton. "Anybody who observed me at that time knows I was just trying to help the country through a difficult time," he told Politico in 2014 during his first gubernatorial run.
He spent just four years in Congress before moving into the administration of George W. Bush — first as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, then as an undersecretary in the Department of Homeland Security. He won the Arkansas governor's race in 2014, and re-election in 2018, before leaving office earlier this year because of term limits.
Hutchinson has robust conservative credentials, but he has occasionally departed from party orthodoxy: In 2021 he vetoed legislation to block transgender children from receiving puberty blockers and other medical care to help them transition, The Washington Post reports. "While in some instances the state must act to protect life, the state should not presume to jump into the middle of every medical, human and ethical issue," he said at the time. "This would be — and is — a vast government overreach." The legislature overrode his veto.
In a Republican Party defined by its fealty to Trump, Hutchinson has also been willing to break from the pack. He came out against Trump's nomination in 2022, telling the Associated Press a third straight GOP nomination for the former president is "really the worst scenario." He particularly criticized Trump's infamous social media statement about overturning the Constitution to reverse the results of the 2020 election. "I mean, any leader, former president that says suspend the Constitution is tearing at the fabric of our democracy," Hutchinson said.
At the moment, though, it seems unlikely Hutchinson will be able to stand in Trump's way. "His standing in polls of a hypothetical Republican presidential primary is so low, he rarely gets to a single digit," U.S. News & World Report says, "instead earning an em-dash level of support among Republican voters." But if Hutchison is merely making a vanity run for the White House, he's not giving any hints. "I do not have the same level of exposure or name ID as some others that are out there," Hutchinson told the Washington Post, "and we've just got to build it,"