LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he’s running for president in 2024, offering himself as an alternative for Republicans ready to turn the party away from Donald Trump.
“I’m confident that people want leaders that want the best of the America, not those who appeal to their worst instincts,” Hutchinson said in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” He said he would make a formal announcement in April in Arkansas.
“I have made a decision, and my decision is I’m going to run for president of United States,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson, 72, left office in January after eight years as governor. He has ramped up his criticism of the former president in recent months, calling another Trump presidential nomination the “worst scenario” for Republicans and saying it would most likely benefit President Joe Biden’s chances in 2024.
Hutchinson sought to position himself as a moderating force on hard-line Republicans in the interview.
"That inspires me, when I see everyday Americans just saying, 'Give us good leadership, give us common stance, consistent conservatism and optimism about our great country,'" he said.
And his top two political advisers formed a super PAC this year to boost his possible bid.
No campaign staffing decisions have been formalized.
In addition to Trump, Hutchinson joins a Republican field that includes former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to jump into the race in the summer, while Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are among those considering bids.
Hutchinson, who was term-limited, has been a fixture in Arkansas politics since the 1980s, when the state was predominantly Democratic. As a member of Congress, he was one of the House managers prosecuting the impeachment case against President Bill Clinton.
Hutchinson was President George W. Bush’s head of the Drug Enforcement Administration and an undersecretary of homeland security.
As governor, Hutchinson championed a series of income tax cuts as the state’s budget surpluses grew. He signed several abortion restrictions into law, including a ban that took effect when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year. Hutchinson, however, has said he regretted that the measure did not include exceptions for rape or incest.
Hutchinson earned the ire of Trump and social conservatives last year when he vetoed legislation to ban gender-affirming medical care for children. Arkansas’ majority-Republican Legislature overrode the veto and enacted the ban, which a federal judge has temporarily blocked.
Trump called Hutchinson a “RINO” — a Republican in Name Only — because of the veto. Hutchinson’s successor, former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has said she would have signed the legislation.
Hutchinson, who signed other restrictions on transgender youths into law, said the Arkansas ban would have gone too far and that he would have signed the measure had it focused only on surgery.
Although he has supported Trump’s policies, Hutchinson has become increasingly critical of the former president’s rhetoric and lies about the 2020 presidential election. He said Trump’s call to terminate parts of the Constitution to overturn the election hurt the country.
Hutchinson also criticized Trump for meeting with white nationalist leader Nick Fuentes and the rapper Ye, who has praised Adolf Hitler and spewed antisemitic conspiracy theories. Hutchinson has contrasted that meeting to his own background as a U.S. attorney who prosecuted white supremacists in Arkansas in the 1980s.
Hutchinson, an opponent of the federal health care law, supported keeping Arkansas’ version of Medicaid expansion after he took office. But he championed a work requirement for the law that was blocked by a federal judge.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Hutchinson tried to push back against misinformation about the virus with daily news conferences and a series of town halls he held around the state to encourage people to get vaccinated.
And in response to DeSantis’ vaccine skepticism, he told Chuck Todd of NBC News' "Meet the Press," "We shouldn’t undermine science.”
Hutchinson infuriated death penalty opponents in 2017 when he ordered eight executions over two weeks, scheduling them before one of the state’s lethal injection drugs was set to expire. The state ultimately carried out four of the executions.
He is known more for talking policy than for fiery speeches, having often been flanked by charts and graphs at his news conferences at the state Capitol. Instead of picking fights on Twitter, he tweets out Bible verses every Sunday morning.