I was as shocked as anyone to hear that Asa Hutchinson was thinking about running for President.
Who is Asa Hutchinson? He is one of the most forgettable Republicans out there. The only thing that shocked me more than learning that he was thinking about running for president was learning that he was still governor of Arkansas. I was under the assumption that he had served as governor during the previous decade and had long since gone into retirement. That’s how little of a national impression that Asa Hutchinson has made.
Asa Hutchinson has been around for a while. He’s served in a number of distinguished positions, even if he’s never made much of an impression. His older brother, Tim, served a term in the Senate, from 1997 to 2003. (After a messy divorce, Tim was defeated for reelection by Mark Pryor, who was himself later defeated by Tom Cotton.) When Tim moved up to the Senate, Asa inherited his seat in the U.S. House. In 2001, Asa left the House to serve as the head of the DEA under George W. Bush. Asa first ran for governor of Arkansas in 2006 and lost to Mike Beebe. He ran a second time in 2014 and was elected as a part of the Republican wave. He was reelected, by a record-setting landslide, in 2018. If Asa runs for President, he’ll point out that he was reelected despite the Democratic wave but Arkansas has been trending so red that I think any Republican would have won the 2018 election. It’s going to be a long time before even a moderate Democrat like Mike Beebe or Mark Pryor can again run a competitive campaign in Arkansas.
And now, Asa has announced that he’s exploring running for President as an explicitly anti-Trump candidate in 2024 and potentially competing with Tom Cotton for the right to be Arkansas’s favorite son. In 2024, Asa will be 74 and, as a result of term limits, he will also be out of office. Most people don’t have the slightest idea who Asa Hutchinson is but I think every Arkansas governor thinks that he can be the next Bill Clinton or Mike Huckabee. (Even Mike Beebe considered running in 2016.)
I’ve read that every politician — whether they be a Congressperson, a governor, or just a city council member — wakes up every day and sees a future President when they look in the mirror. That’s probably true. If Jim Gilmore and George Pataki can both run for President, why not Asa Hutchinson? At least, that’s probably what the governor is thinking.
Myself, I wish Asa luck but I doubt he’ll make it to the first caucus. If he runs, he will not only be largely unknown but he’ll also be competing with all of the other anti-Trump candidates, people like Larry Hogan, Will Hurd, and probably Adam Kinzinger as well. And even if Hutchinson does somehow break out of the pack, the explicitly anti-Trump primary electorate is so such a small part of the body that he’ll still be lucky to be much of a factor. On paper, Asa is the type of non-flashy candidate who could have done well 20 years ago but times have changed. Voters want more than a resume now.