2024 Watch: Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson keeping ‘options open,’ wants to be ‘bold messenger’ for GOP
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EXCLUSIVE: Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he wants “to be a leading voice for a new direction for our party and our country.”
The term-limited governor, who’s in his last year steering Arkansas, heads to New Hampshire on Monday. Asked by Fox News ahead of his trip why he’s visiting the state that for a century’s held the first primary in the presidential race, Hutchinson answered “I want to have a bold message and the best place to start is New Hampshire.”
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Hutchinson, 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, will headline ‘Politics and Eggs’ at Saint Anselm College. The New Hampshire Institute of Politics speaking series has been a must stop for White House hopefuls for two decades.
“I have a record as governor, a record in Congress, and those are illustrations of where we can go in the future, and I’ll be a bold messenger for that,” Hutchinson emphasized in his national exclusive interview with Fox News.
And he noted “that’s the reason I’m speaking at Politics and Eggs….that’s gets attention whenever you are speaking at a political event in New Hampshire, and I welcome the opportunity to influence the debate and shape debate.”
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During his final year as governor, Hutchinson said he’s “supporting a number of Republican congressional candidates” running in the midterm elections, helping to “strengthen the message of our candidates this year, to showcase the ideas that work and that we can be problem-solving and not just creating chaos.”
The governor emphasized that “it’s critical that we focus on this year’s election and that’s what we’re doing… it’s about having the right message for this election year and to me the Republican Party has to be talking about future ideas and the direction of our country, the strength of America. I think we have to be talking about ideas and not the past and I think my voice is helpful to those candidates who want to look to the future.”
That’s a message that other potential GOP 2024 contenders, including former two-term New Jersey Gov. Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have also been espousing.
And it’s also an indirect jab at former President Donald Trump. The former president, who remains the most popular and influential politician in the GOP as he repeatedly flirts with making another White House run in 2024, constantly re-litigates his 2020 election loss to now President Biden.
“It’s an unnecessary distraction,” Hutchinson said of Trump’s unproven claims that the last presidential election was “rigged” and “stolen.”
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“Every election has to be about how we’re going to help people, how we’re going to apply our principles to government. How we’re going to lead and address the problems,” the governor stressed. ” If you have candidates not talking about the problems with inflation, with our supply chain issues, with our military strength and our support of Ukraine, then we’re missing the boat because those are issues that people care about and that’s what they want to know solutions to. That’s the important message for this year and beyond.”
Hutchinson, the current chair of the National Governors Association, said he won’t make any 2024 decisions until after November’s midterms.
But he said “I’m not ruling it out. That’s something that is a consideration, an option. I’m certainly not ruling it out, because this is too critical a time for our nation and it’s a defining moment and I want to not only engage the debate now but keep my options open down the road.”
Pence back in Iowa
The former vice president spent Saturday in Iowa, the state whose caucuses for half a century have led off both the GOP and Democratic Party nominating calendars.
Pence teamed up with Republican Rep. Randy Feenstra, whose district’s located in the heavily red northern and western parts of the state, where Christian conservative voters are predominant. Pence spent time with Feenstra during a visit to Iowa last summer.
He also addressed Iowa’s Second Congressional District Republican Party Convention, in support of Rep. Ashley Hinson.
And the former vice president also traveled to Ames, Iowa to headline the Story County GOP’s annual Lincoln Highway Dinner.
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Pence has been a frequent visitor to the key early voting presidential primary and caucus state over the past year, as he crisscrosses the country helping fellow Republicans running in the midterm elections.
Cruz back in Nevada
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the runner-up to Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primary race, spent Thursday and Friday in Nevada, the state that holds the fourth contest in the GOP nominating calendar.
Cruz campaigned at multiple events across the state with former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, the leading Republican Senate candidate hoping to defeat Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in November.
DeSantis heading to Nevada
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another potential 2024 Republican White House hopeful, will team up with Laxalt in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
“Governor DeSantis is standing in the breach against the far left and he’s winning,” Laxalt said in a statement announcing the Florida governor’s upcoming visit.
DeSantis, who’s become extremely popular with conservatives across the country the past two years thanks to his pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions and his culture wars crusade, is second to Trump in most polls of the hypothetical 2024 GOP nomination race.
Trump’s massive war chest
Fifteen months removed from the White House, Trump’s reputation as the Republican Party’s fundraising behemoth remains firmly intact.
The former president’s three political committees hauled in just over $19 million during the January-March first quarter of fundraising.
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And the three entities — Trump’s Save America PAC, Save America JFC (joint fundraising committee) and MAGA PAC — reported ending March with a massive $124 million in cash on hand in their coffers.
The latest fundraising figures were shared first with Fox News on Tuesday.