Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson mounts anti-chaos strategy
"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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