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Former Arkansas Governor makes presidential campaign pitch in Nevada

Cleo Westin
Asa Hutchinson speaks with Nevada, Iowa residents at Farm Grounds coffee shop.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke with several caucus-goers in downtown Nevada, Iowa about being a “normal” candidate and did not discuss “wokeness,” which other campaigns have focused on.

“If anyone knows normal, it’s Iowa,” Hutchinson said. “Whenever you’re looking at the leadership we need in our country, normal looks pretty good to a lot of people.”

Hutchinson ended his second term as Arkansas governor in January and could not seek reelection due to term limits. In addition to his experience as governor, Hutchinson was the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, a U.S. House Representative and a U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.

“Why am I running? Because you look at the needs of our country and […] my background addresses those challenges,” Hutchinson said. “If you look at border security, I was in charge of border security during the Bush administration.”

Hutchinson added that while some may conclude that former President George W. Bush’s administration “was not perfect,” it “looks perfect compared to what is happening now.”

“When you look at the challenge of fentanyl in the streets and communities of our cities—the leading cause of death between those ages 18 and 48—that fentanyl is coming through the border to our cities,” Hutchinson said. “I was head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, […] I fought the fight here in Iowa with you on methamphetamine. I know how we need to fight the battle against fentanyl as well.”

Hutchinson said he is going up in the polls and asked those in attendance to donate just $1 to his campaign to help get “serious candidates” on the debate stage.

“I think a lot of Iowans are waiting to make decisions, but I hope you can look at getting some early support, helping us get to a stage but also helping us to organize in Iowa in a way that we can do well in the [Iowa] caucus,” Hutchinson said.

The criteria to qualify for the first debate set by the Republican National Committee in June states that candidates must have 40,000 unique donors, with at least 200 donors from 20 states. Candidates must also have at least 1% in three national polls or 1% in two national polls and 1% in an early state poll.

Hutchinson is not the only candidate asking for $1 donations. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is offering $20 Visa or Mastercard gift cards for 50,000 people who donate at least $1. Businessman Perry Johnson is trying to get donations by selling merchandise for $1, like hats that read “I identify as Non-Bidenary” and t-shirts that state “I stand with Tucker,” seemingly referring to former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Ultimately, Hutchinson is attempting to distance himself from Former President Trump, who he endorsed in 2016 and 2020.

“I’m in the non-Trump lane, and I think it’s important for our country and our party to have options,” Hutchinson said. “But I also believe firmly we need new leadership in the party and in the country, and my motivation, of course, is President Biden’s policies have taken us the wrong direction in this country.”

Hutchinson also said Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has done a terrific job ensuring Iowa remains first in the nation and said it’s wrong that Trump criticized her for remaining neutral in the caucus.

“She ought to be commended for [staying neutral] and giving Iowans a fair chance to make their determination,” Hutchinson said. “Donald Trump is wrong in criticizing Governor Reynolds, and Donald Trump is also wrong in trying to pressure leaders to say he is the only alternative.”

When asked by the Daily, Hutchinson said he did not regret vetoing an Arkansas bill in 2021 that would have made the state the first to ban gender-confirming surgeries for transgender youth.

“I vetoed it because it interferes with parents in their decision-making and it went too far,” Hutchinson said. “I would have signed a bill that prohibited sex change surgeries for minors, for example. That’s an appropriate role of the states to interfere with that decision. But there wasn’t a grandfather clause there. It was too broad and unconstitutional.”

In an interview with the Daily, Nevada Mayor and Story County GOP Chair Brett Barker said he thinks Hutchinson has good federal experience in the executive and legislative branches in addition to being the governor of Arkansas.

“I think the experience governors get translates well to being an executive at the federal level,” Barker said. “There’s a bunch of governors in the field, and I think they all know that type of background.”

Barker said he would not endorse a candidate ahead of the caucus and is a “big believer” in the neutrality of leadership.

“We’re very proud of [being] first in the nation, and I think part of that is our party leadership does remain neutral to give every candidate [an] opening,” Barker said. “I think it’s important that the voters here ask the questions […] and get to make their own decisions. I think that’s the beauty of the caucus process.”

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