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Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he's receiving encouragement to run for president

Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, seen here speaking with Arkansas legislators on Jan. 6, 2015, has maintained a national profile through TV appearances and by at events around the country.

After last week’s midterm elections, and with former President Donald Trump expected to declare he will make another run for the White House, term-limited Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he is still contemplating a run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

“Well, it’s on the table, it’s under consideration and it’s premature to make a decision, but I’ve had an incredible amount of encouragement," Hutchinson said in an interview. "I tell folks that I’ve actually had more encouragement from people of Arkansas to run for president than I had when I ran for governor. And so that’s how I compared it a little bit.”

He has maintained a national profile, frequently appearing on Sunday morning network TV programs and speaking at events around the country.

“Of course I’ve been traveling, and so I’m measuring the response to a common sense conservative message," Hutchinson said, "but no announcements right now.

The midterm elections were not as fruitful as Republicans were hoping for nationally. Democrats will hold the U.S. Senate, while the U.S. House of Representatives is still undecided, although the GOP is expected to take a narrow majority.

Prior to Tuesday, many Republican leaders were predicting a “red wave” that would lead to as many as 54 Republican senators and a 40-seat margin in Congress. Democrats have secured 50 Senate seats and may pick up one more in Georgia, while Republicans are expected to have a single-digit advantage in the House.

Political observers say the insertion of Trump in close races as well as candidates he backed are part of the reason for the lackluster performance by the party.

Hutchinson has said it’s time to move on from Trump and has been unafraid to position himself as an alternative to the pugilistic style of the former president. Hutchinson said he’s not ready to declare if he’ll compete in Iowa and New Hampshire, two early vote states in the presidential primaries.

When might Hutchinson make an announcement?

“I’ve always said the first of next year, which is a general timeframe. Of course, it looks to me like President Trump, former President Trump, and his timetable might impact the decision making of other potential candidates, so we’re going to have to measure that between now and then. But I expect after the first of the year,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson’s PAC, America Strong and Free, has raised $126,000 and spent nearly $104,000, according to OpenSecrets.org. Nearly $49,000 has gone to Republican candidates for Congress, while $13,000 has gone to state and local candidates, according to the site.

The PAC could be used to help fuel a presidential bid.

While national GOP fortunes have been disappointing, Republicans in Arkansas did well, sweeping all constitutional and federal office races. Republican candidates picked up two seats in the state Senate and at least four seats in the Arkansas House to increase their supermajorities.

Republican lawmakers will represent 29 of the 35 Senate seats and at least 82 of the 100 seats in the House, up from 27 and 78 respectively. There is still a possibility that a House seat in Conway, currently separated by four votes, could swing to the Republican side of the aisle based on outstanding provisional, military and overseas ballots.

Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who will be the first female governor of Arkansas, exceeded 63% of the vote against Democrat Chris Jones and Libertarian Ricky Dale Harrington. Sanders’ vote percentage is the highest vote percentage obtained by a first-term gubernatorial candidate since 1978 when Democrat Bill Clinton defeated Republican Lynn Lowe 63-37%.

Last week, Hutchinson and Sanders met to begin the transition to her administration. Hutchinson said the meeting was “excellent.”

“We’ve coordinated a very clear path on the transition, full cooperation in it. We reviewed the budget and I wanted to make sure she was aware of the budget that we were presenting. And I emphasized to her that she’ll be in charge next year. So it’ll be a great transition. And we had a good meeting,” he said.

Roby Brock is the Editor-in-Chief and Host of Talk Business & Politics.