Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson acknowledges that his two trips this week to Iowa — the state whose caucuses for a half century have kicked off the GOP presidential nominating calendar — are a sign that he’s seriously considering a White House run.
"Going to Iowa probably does send some signals that your serious about looking at 2024," Hutchinson, who just completed serving eight years as governor, told Fox News.
Hutchinson was interviewed during his Thursday-Friday swing to the Hawkeye State, where he attended Gov. Kim Reynolds second inaugural, and also met with other GOP leaders to help celebrate Republican victories in Iowa in November’s midterm elections. Hutchinson was also in Iowa on Monday, when he addressed a GOP legislative breakfast.
The term-limited governor was succeeded Tuesday by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as the former White House press secretary during then-President Trump's administration and the daughter of former longtime Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was inaugurated.
Hutchinson said his trips this week "give me an opportunity to listen to Iowans and their leaders about the challenges they face and also solutions that they’re looking at."
The conservative former governor argued that President Biden’s "failed polices" have exacerbated the "border crisis and fentanyl that hits Iowa." And he also pointed high interest rates, which he blames on what he calls "Biden’s economic failures."
Hutchinson called the reception he received from Iowans "very welcoming," and he highlighted the "connections between an ag state like Arkansas and Iowa, and all that we share together in terms of issues that we face — many of the same values are shared by the communities here. So there’s a real connection."
His trips this week to Iowa follow a Nov. 16 stop, 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’s 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 said in a 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 this week 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 there’s a strong possibility that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former South Carolina governor turned former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also end up running for the Republican nomination.
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."
And Hutchinson 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.