Asa Hutchinson on fears of crowded primary aiding Trump: ‘It’s totally different from 2016’

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GOP presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson dismissed fears that a crowded Republican primary would end up aiding former President Trump in 2024 in an interview with The Hill on Monday.

“I think it’s totally different from 2016,” Hutchinson said. “One, we’re not going to have as many candidates in the field as 2016. Secondly, Donald Trump is a known quantity today.” 

Hutchinson noted the campaign cycle is still in its “early stages,” adding that “until votes are cast, we need to have candidates in there.” 

“I don’t think you’re going to see the same challenges that you saw in 2016,” he said. 

Hutchinson’s comments to The Hill come after he announced his 2024 presidential bid on Sunday, pitching himself as an alternative to Trump in the Republican primary. 

Some Trump critics in the GOP have expressed concern that a crowded Republican primary could play to the former president’s advantage in the party’s primary, similar to how it did during his first presidential run in 2016.

Last month, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a moderate Republican and Trump critic, announced he was not running so he could give other candidates who are polling in the “single digits” a chance to challenge frontrunners such as Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Hutchinson will likely face an uphill battle against Trump in the GOP primary. A Quinnipiac University survey released last week shows him registering at less than 1 percent in support from Republican voters. Trump, on the other hand, led the field with 47 percent support, while DeSantis followed at 33 percent. 

Despite Trump’s dominance in the field so far, Hutchinson told The Hill that he believes there is “a large percentage” of voters who want to consider different alternatives for the nomination. 

“You’ve got to carve your own lane,” Hutchinson told The Hill when asked if there was a lane for him in the 2024 Republican primary. “The last thing that we need is another Joe Biden-Donald Trump race in 2024, so if you don’t accept that proposition that you have to yield, then you have to get in there and fight.” 

“I fight for my convictions. I fight for the country that I believe needs new leadership and to find the differences not just with Donald Trump but more importantly with Joe Biden,” he said. 

Hutchinson served as governor of Arkansas from 2015 to 2023 and was succeeded by former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The position’s term limits allowed him to launch a 2024 presidential campaign. 

Hutchinson acknowledged that the recent indictment of Trump by a Manhattan grand jury last week will likely benefit the former president in the short term. Trump’s campaign said it raised more than $4 million in the 24 hours after his indictment. 

“The most recent indictment has given Donald Trump a bump of fundraising and poll numbers, and it’s because people believe he’s been mistreated and that there’s a political indictment that’s been filed against him,” Hutchinson said. “Time will tell how that plays, and I’ve said we ought to see how the facts develop. Even though I wouldn’t have brought that case under the facts I understand it; they’re filed and he’s got a bump out of it. This is very early in the season, and you’ll just have to see whether that short-term benefit goes long-term.”

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