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Hutchinson fails to find support in Trump-led GOP nomination contest

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson smiles at a cheering crowd during his formal presidential campaign launch on April 26, 2023 in Bentonville.
Antoinette Grajeda
Arkansas Advocate
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has ended his presidential campaign after a lackluster performance in the Iowa caucuses.

Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has terminated his run for president of the United States. On Monday, Hutchinson only secured 191 votes out of over 100,000 cast during the Iowa caucuses.

The former governor came in sixth place overall and secured zero delegates. He announced the end of his campaign shortly after.

“I am suspending my campaign and driving back to Arkansas,” a statement posted to X, formerly Twitter, said. “My message of being a principled Republican with experience and telling the truth about the current Republican front-runner did not sell well in Iowa.”

Hutchinson ran a somewhat traditional campaign for the presidency, focusing on his policies and track record as governor of Arkansas. During his campaign, he was critical of former President Donald Trump, who is facing several criminal and civil indictments.

Heather Yates is a political science professor at the University of Central Arkansas. She wasn't surprised by the results.

Yates thinks Hutchinson expected to lose, considering how quickly he suspended his campaign after the results Monday. She says Hutchinson's rhetoric is not what the current GOP is looking for.

“The appetite is elevated for this grievance politics that Donald Trump is propelling,” she said. “And Asa Hutchinson's manner and temperament were just not suited for the moment. He needed to be more aggressive.”

Yates said there is nothing the former governor could have done to help his campaign that wouldn’t have compromised his stated values.

Hutchinson announced his campaign for the presidency in May at a rally in Bentonville. After that, he struggled to get mainstream media attention. Yates said his campaign started on a downhill trajectory after the first Republican presidential debate in August.

“He failed to have that breakout moment that he really needed,” she said.

During the debate, Hutchinson reiterated his credentials and policy history.

“I am a pro-life governor from a conservative state that has a conservative record,” he said. “I lowered taxes in Arkansas as governor.” He talked about the billion-dollar surplus he ended his term with and his commitment to “shrinking” the government.

“We have a landscape that is very identity-based, very siloed, very fractured,” Yates said. “[Policy arguments] do not persuade the identity voter that has emerged under the Trump era.”

Later in the debate, Hutchinson was the only Republican who said they would not vote for Trump if he was convicted.

“Obviously, I'm not going to support somebody who's been convicted of a serious felony or been disqualified under the Constitution,” he said, calling Trump “morally disqualified.” His answer triggered loud booing sounds from the crowd.

"Ever since then, he really struggled staying in the public eye and staying in front of the news cycle,” Yates said.

Hutchinson was consistent in his criticism of Trump throughout his campaign. In June, he called for Trump to drop out to “put the good of the country above his candidacy.” Trump is apparently still popular with Republicans as he swept the Iowa caucuses on Monday and is shaping up to be the party's nominee.

Hutchinson didn't qualify for the second presidential debate. Yates said this “really hindered his campaign,” along with the fact that he struggled to raise enough money to compete in the primary.

Hutchinson has not yet said what is next for him in his career. Yates said it's possible Hutchinson could continue working in some form.

“I wouldn't completely shut the door on Asa Hutchinson. I think there are some pathways forward for public service if he wanted to go that route.”

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.