Jan 2, 2024 - News

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson's extraordinarily ordinary presidential bid

Asa Hutchinson speaks during the Florida Freedom Summit last Nov. 4. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

"Asa's Normal Express" — a push by the campaign of former governor Asa Hutchinson to convince Iowa voters there's an alternative to Donald Trump — launches tomorrow in Des Moines.

  • "People are looking for normal after the chaos that we've had … I offer normal. I'm sort of building on that," Hutchinson told Axios a few days before Christmas.

Driving the news: The GOP's Iowa caucus, which historically serves as a culling point of presidential candidates, is Jan. 15.

Why it matters: President Biden and former President Trump remain frontrunners for a potential historic rematch, Axios' Erin Doherty writes. But spoiler candidates and Republicans attracting anti-Trump voters and funding have brought an edge to primary season.

State of play: Hutchinson, a former DEA administrator and Homeland Security undersecretary, continues his dogged dark-horse pursuit for the Republican nomination. He faces dwindling funds, lack of national name recognition and is polling at less than 1% — dead last — against five others. "Obviously, I'm a longshot candidate," he said.

  • Yes, but: He talks of the race as a marathon rather than a sprint. "There is a path [to the White House] and the path is through Iowa and the path reflects the unpredictability of [this] year."

Unpredictability has come in the form of Trump's legal challenges, Hutchinson's own headwinds and unknowables from the other candidates.

Reality check: When asked about dropping out of the race so voters could more easily back a single candidate to defeat Trump, Hutchinson says it won't work that way — at least at the moment.

  • Pointing to a recent Des Moines Register/NBC News poll, Trump's favorable numbers increased after Mike Pence, Doug Bergrum and Tim Scott dropped out of the race.
  • "That's irrefutable data that shows the consolidation of the candidates is not the winning strategy for somebody who wants to beat Donald Trump," he said.

Between the lines: Voters are telling Hutchinson that the economy and border security are their top priorities. He's managed both — balancing Arkansas' budget for eight years and serving two years as undersecretary for Homeland Security.

Quick take: He also has an eye on world affairs.

  • Hutchinson believes the U.S. should continue to support Ukraine in its war against Russia and back Israel in its objective of eliminating Hamas.
  • He'd like to see increased attention on border security. If elected, he would look to convene the governors of border states and collaborate with Mexico to address the issue.
  • The biggest threat to the U.S. is China, he said, because of its size and how it's aligning with Russia and Iran.

The bottom line: Hutchinson hopes his experience governing a rural and agricultural state, federal border security and his no-nonsense approach will resonate with Iowa voters leading up to the caucus.

What he's saying: "People look at me and say, 'Well, you're not chaotic … you're not flamboyant,'" he said.

  • "Yes, I'm normal."

What's next: A meet and greet is scheduled for 6pm tomorrow in Des Moines; others in Sioux City, Muscatine and Waterloo will follow.

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