Gov. Asa Hutchinson stood by an earlier statement that former President Donald Trump “disqualified himself” from running again for president, that time will shape the legal climate on abortion, and he will make a decision about his own presidential election plans in January.
Hutchinson made the comments Aug. 1 in an interview with Washington Post Live. Hutchinson recently told CBS Mornings that Trump disqualified himself from running for election by his actions after the 2020 elections. He told Washington Post Live that he stood by that statement. He said Republicans should move past the 2020 elections and instead talk about issues such as crime and inflation.
“If we get sidetracked on a personality that is as divisive as Donald Trump, then that does not bode well for the outcome in November,” he said. “We’re going to do well, I have no doubt about that, but we lose ground whenever Donald Trump becomes the issue.”
JAN. 6 INVESTIGATION
Hutchinson said he had “tuned to the majority” of the Select Committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol hearings on Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021. He said the hearings have made the case that Trump was irresponsible and derelict in his duties, but not that he had engaged in criminal conduct.
The committee’s vice chair, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., is polling far behind her opponent in the Wyoming Republican primary. Asked what her likely loss says about the party, Hutchinson said she had “taken a courageous stand … but it’s a tremendous political cost because her electorate wants her back there talking about the rising cost of fuel and the challenges that they have. And so every candidate cannot be so focused on the past that you’re not addressing those issues, and I think she’s paying a price for that.”
He said other Republicans who had opposed Trump, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, had won their primary elections. He said the party is in transition and having an internal debate, “and those are always painful.” He said Trump has a significant following in the party’s grass roots, and candidates must identify with the issues he drives.
“We’re all on the same page in terms of the major issues, but he distracts the voters over to himself, and it becomes about him versus the issues and the problem solving that we need to focus on,” he said.
Hutchinson said he is still considering his own presidential run.
“Obviously I’m thinking about it, but not going to be having any decision until next January,” he said. “We’re going to focus on this year, but 2024 is so critical in terms of shaping the Republican Party, and so whether it’s as a candidate or whether it’s in some other role, I certainly want to be a voice.”
He said he is not a moderate and his record is “as conservative as anyone in the United States of America,” but he is able to work with people who disagree with him.
“I think the test in 2024, can a conservative that has a more optimistic view of America, that doesn’t resort to personal grievances, can that person win? And that’s what I want to be able to support in the fight for 2024,” he said.
On the issue of abortion, Hutchinson said the coming months to a year’s time will provide experiences that will shape public opinion and the law. He said states are the laboratories of democracy and will learn from each other.
Hutchinson said he had supported rape and incest exceptions to Arkansas’ trigger law banning abortions. However, he signed the bill into law because there was an overwhelming consensus in the Legislature supporting it, because he has always signed pro-life bills, and because the governor’s veto in Arkansas can be overridden with a simple majority. He does not envision the law being revisited while he is governor. He said Arkansas’ law doesn’t restrict a woman’s right to travel and would not outlaw contraceptives. Abortion-inducing medication, however, would be outlawed.
“Right now, we have the law in place. We expect it to be followed. It is being followed to my knowledge. There’s not any police that’s out there knocking on doors trying to check out things,” he said.
He said the state should provide services such as increasing foster care and expanding maternal health care in rural settings. He said Arkansas has an application before the Biden administration that would allow it to do that.
He expressed doubt that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade would energize Democrat-supporting voters. He said Republicans are also motivated and crime and law enforcement, border security, and economic issues will be important issues in November.
“I do not see it as the all-in-all explosive political issue that it is being made out to be right now,” he said. “It’s always been an important issue to many voters, but there’s a broader range of issues that voters decide what candidate to support, and I see that continuing.”
He said there is no need for federal legislation regarding same-sex marriage, and he doesn’t expect the Supreme Court to revisit the issue. While he believes that marriage is between one man and one woman, he accepted the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying, “Same sex marriage is the status quo in America right now.”