FIRST ON FOX – As he seriously considers a run for the White House, former two-term Republican Gov. of Arkansas Asa Hutchinson will get a helping hand from an outside group that’s launching with some early financial backing.
The America Strong and Free Action super PAC, which will support Hutchinson if he goes ahead and launches a 2024 GOP presidential campaign, is now up and running. The super PAC, whose launch was shared first with Fox News, has been funded with an initial $1 million contribution from a single donor in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Former Hutchinson campaign manager Jon Gilmore, who served as the governor’s deputy chief of staff, is chairman of the new group, which shares a name with America Strong and Free, a political advocacy group aligned with Hutchinson.
“Governor Asa Hutchinson’s voice is important to the national stage. His background is second to none with experience at all levels of government and the private sector. He is a voice of reason in tumultuous times and his vision for our Party means getting back to the principles that made the Republican Party strong — principles inspired in Hutchinson from one of his mentors, President Ronald Reagan,” Gilmore told Fox News in a statement.
Hutchinson left office in January due to term limits, and was succeeded by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary during then-President Trump’s administration and the daughter of former longtime Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. As he concluded his tenure as governor, Hutchinson made back-to-back trips to Iowa, the state that for a half century has kicked off the presidential nominating calendar.
“Going to Iowa probably does send some signals that your serious about looking at 2024,” Hutchinson told Fox News.
Hutchinson called the reception he received from Iowans “very welcoming,” and said his stops gave him “an opportunity to listen to Iowans and their leaders about the challenges they face and also solutions that they’re looking at.”
His trips this week to Iowa follow a Nov. 16 visit, when he addressed the Westside Conservative Club in Des Moines. He also paid two visits last year to New Hampshire, which holds the second contest in the Republican Party’s presidential nominating calendar. His trips included an April trip to headline the “Politics and Eggs” speaking series at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, a must-stop for White House hopefuls. He has also traveled to South Carolina, which votes third in the Republican schedule.
A former federal attorney turned two-term congressman who served as Drug Enforcement Administration administrator and Department of Homeland Security undersecretary during then-President George W. Bush’s administration, Hutchinson touts that he’s a “consistent conservative.”
Hutchinson, who steered the National Governors Association last year, has been mulling a 2024 White House run for months. He told Fox News Digital interview last summer that he wants a role in helping to shape the future of the GOP and “that might lead to a presidential campaign down the road.”
Asked about his timeline, Hutchinson said that “I don’t think we have to set an artificial time frame.” But pointing to the likelihood of presidential forums in the early voting states as early as April and debates possibly starting in July, he added that “there is a practical time frame that you look at.”
“The decisions would need to be made early in the second quarter or sometime in the first quarter,” he emphasized. “I’m not setting an artificial timeframe — I’m wanting to make sure that if I did become a candidate, that there would be the kind of financial support that’s needed.”
“You measure the response to our vision and your message for America as well as making sure that you can be a strong candidate if you did jump in. That’s what I’m doing now,” he explained.
Former President Donald Trump is already in the GOP presidential nomination race, and former South Carolina governor turned former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has teased a Feb. 15 announcement about her 2024 plans. There’s a possibility that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — among others — might jump into the race.
Asked how someone like Hutchinson could compete with bigger names larger war chests, the former governor said: “You’ve got to work hard, and that’s what’s attractive about a place like Iowa. They like to look you in the eye and make a decision. It’s a land of retail politics, which I’m accustomed to. It’s getting to know people and their challenges and presenting your case to them. That’s the beauty of American democracy.”
Hutchinson, who last week met in California with top GOP officials and committee members, and reporters, at the Republican National Committee’s annual winter meeting, emphasized that his decision on running won’t be dependent on any other actual or potential presidential candidate.
“We’ll make our own decision,” he said.