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Hutchinson says Trump ‘needs to regain’ blue-collar workers in swing states

Throughout the Republican National Convention, we’ll be talking to prominent members of the party. One of them is Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who was scheduled to participate in convention activities but decided to stay home in Little Rock as his state grapples with coronavirus. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what he’s hoping for at the RNC, coronavirus relief legislation and racial healing.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, throughout this week, we are going to be talking to some prominent Republicans, including Arkansas' Governor Asa Hutchinson.

    He joins us right now from Little Rock.

    Governor Hutchinson, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

    So, you were supposed to be the chair of the Arkansas delegation at the auditorium where some of the delegates are meeting here in Washington downtown. You decided to stay home.

    You said: I have got a lot to deal with, with COVID and so forth.

    What are you and other Arkansans looking for this week from this convention?

  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    Well, thank you, Judy.

    And you're right. It was important for me to be in Arkansas right now. We're starting school. We still have COVID. We're dealing with that. But it is also important for this convention to go forward with enthusiasm.

    And I'm speaking of the Democrat and Republican Convention, because, while the nation is focused on COVID and trying to have some normalcy in life, we have to elect a president for the next four years. And this convention will help everyone to get focused.

    In terms of Arkansas and I think the rest of the country, what we're looking for is motivation, why this election is important, and to get us engaged. And, secondly, it is about moving voters as well.

    And that's what President Trump needs to do, is to motivate his base, but also not to forget that we can move voters into his column, I think, partly by reminding them of what he has done, but, secondly, painting a broad and expansive view as to what he wants to do.

    Tonight is a good start with the American story.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    When you say he needs to move voters into his column, it suggests that he hasn't done enough of that until now.

  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    Well, I mean, the poll numbers show that he is fighting uphill, if you take those poll numbers at face value. And I believe in them.

    He's proven before that he can surge in an election. And that is what I am talking about in terms of moving voters. And if you look at the swing states, what moves them, what got them in his column to begin with, were the trade issues.

    He needs to remind them that: I'm the one that redid North America Free Trade Agreement. I said I could do it. We got it done. We got tough on China.

    These are issues that resonate with those blue-collar workers that are former Reagan Democrats in those swing states. So, he's got to go back to that base. And that's some of those that he's lost. But he needs to regain those. And I think he can do it by reminding them what he's done with the economy and on trade issues.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Has the president's handling of this pandemic, Governor Hutchinson, is that — is that now a plus or a minus for him?

  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    I don't think it's a plus for him.

    And if you look at — normally, in times of crisis, you have a president that can lead can be the focal point, and it is a benefit. And it was for President Trump whenever he was early on having his daily briefings.

    I know that he got into the weeds on some of it, and they criticized him for misspeaking. But he was engaged. And I believe that was a plus for him during that time. He disengaged,. And now he's come back.

    And so the president, during a national emergency, has to lead. And he's done that. He's done it in different ways. But he still can make this a plus, if he — if he engages and really helps address some of the testing problems that we have struggled with in the state level, if the Coronavirus Task Force continues to function well, support the governors as we make decisions.

    And whenever I say it's a plus, we shouldn't look at anything about this virus being a plus or a minus.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    But it is important for a president to lead.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I understand what you're saying.

    Governor, I want to ask you about something. You announced, I think on Friday, that you're going to — you're asking the federal government for an additional $300 a week in weekly federal unemployment benefits. And we know that, a few weeks ago, President Trump spoke about there could be a $400 package, that the federal government would put up $100 if the states put up $300.

    Is that — how has that worked out? Because, as you know, the Congress, the House passed a version of COVID relief. The Senate has not, under Republican leadership. We don't know where it stands in Congress. But where does it stands from the — from the perspective of your Arkansans who are out of work?

  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    Well, first of all, this cries out for a congressional solution.

    We need to have the leadership, Democrat, Republican leadership, come together and get something done here, because it does hurt those Americans that are not getting the expanded unemployment compensation that needs to get them through this.

    And, right now — or, previously, we had $600 a week in extra compensation. The president said, we can try to do this by executive order for $400. But we were able to manage and put our application in for $300-per-week extended benefits for unemployment. And we're waiting for approval of that.

    It doesn't have to be $600, because we're moving people to work. Our unemployment rate is going down. Our economy is expanding. And it's also an incentive to make sure that you can get paid more when you're working vs. not working.

    And so I think that's a good amount. But they do need that extra assistance, because these are tough times. And there's going to be some challenges that they're going to face in the future, and we want to get that money flowing again. Congress needs to act.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes, I hear you saying it's — this is a stopgap, in effect.

  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    It is.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You would like to see Congress do something — something more permanent.

    A contrast between the Democratic Convention and this convention, Governor Hutchinson, that people have commented on, at the Democratic Convention, every living former Democratic president was speaking, had a role in the convention. Even the former presidential nominees were involved, like Al Gore.

    At the Republican Convention, you don't see former President George W. Bush. You don't see Mitt Romney, who, of course, ran for president as the Republican nominee, or the widow of John McCain.

    What are we to make of that?

  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    Well, it's not helpful. And I wish they were all participating in this.

    I served in George W. Bush's administration with great joy and service. And I'd like to see him either have the invite or be able to show his support for the Republican cause that he's devoted his life to in the service of our country. But that's not the case. They're going to have to work all those things out.

    But look at what they do have tonight, I mean, Nikki Haley, what a great story, and Senator Scott. This is going to be portraying a broader vision of America than what people are used to seeing. And it's very important that message of the American story, about broadening our base and about racial healing as well, which I hope will be part of that message tonight.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you believe President Trump is sending the right signals, saying the message in the way you would like to see it said, spoken now when it comes to racial healing?

  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    Well — well, he doesn't express things always in the way I would like to see it expressed.

    But whenever you look at the needs of our country, we do need to speak out against institutional bias, whether it's in policing or other institutions of government. The president has to be a healer.

    And he — you can be a healer at the same time that you are supporting our law enforcement. And I don't think those are contradictory at all. And we need to somehow bridge those gaps.

    The president, I believe, in this convention will try to do it in his own way. And it will be through his own voice, which he has done before, but it'll also be through speakers like I mentioned that will be addressing the convention tonight, and through others.

    So, I hope that this is not going to be divisive, simply one that motivates the base, but also a convention that broadens and motive — and moves voters into the Republican column for November.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I hope we can check back with you at the end of the week to see if the convention fulfilled your wish.

    Governor Asa Hutchinson, joining us from Little Rock, Arkansas, we thank you very much.

  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    All right. Thank you. Good to be with you.

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