Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson discusses his potential White House bid

The 2024 Republican presidential primary is already heating up in early voting states. Prospective candidate Ron Desantis traveled to Iowa Friday, and declared candidate Nikki Haley also met with voters there this week. Among those considering bids for the White House is former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who joins Amna Nawaz to discuss a potential candidacy.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    The 2024 Republican presidential primary is already heating up in early voting states.

    Prospective candidate Ron DeSantis traveled to Iowa for the first time today, and declared candidate Nikki Haley this week also met voters across that state.

    Among those considering joining the fray is former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.

    Amna Nawaz spoke with him earlier today.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Governor Asa Hutchinson, welcome back to the "NewsHour." Thanks for being with us.

    Let's start with the most important question. Have you decided if you're going to run or not?

  • Fmr. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR):

    Right now, I'm concentrating this month in going to different states, listening to voters, and really concentrating on a good, consistent conservative message that I have practiced as governor and throughout my public career.

    April is an important time for decision-making and any announcement at that time. And so stay tuned. But, right now, we're really focusing on what's important for our country and the direction that we go. And I think my message is important. I have been encouraged by the response that I have received thus far.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We will indeed stay tuned. It is very early, we should say.

    But, so far, there are two clear front-runners, former President Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who are very much in the same lane, I think it's fair to say, appealing to the same kinds of voters and base Republican voters. What do you see as your potential lane? Who are your potential voters?

  • Fmr. Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    Well, it's people that also are in that lane in terms of believing in changes that we need in government, a conservative position, fighting out against the progressive agenda.

    So, those voters are very important for anybody who runs. But we also need to broaden the base. And it's important that we nominate a candidate that can appeal to independent voters and suburban voters and win in November. We should be tired of losing, as we did not win as we should have in the last cycle.

    And so that message of a consistent conservative that can broaden the base is really important for our party. And I think that is the kind of candidate that people are looking for that can win in a November election and that can broaden our base.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    You have made clear that you don't believe that former President Trump should be that nominee, but you have also expressed concern about his message of vengeance, as you have put it.

    If he is not the nominee, are you worried about him running as a third-party candidate or trying to seek revenge on the Republican Party in some way?

  • Fmr. Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    Well, the reason I say that we should not have somebody who's a president of the United States that's interested in revenge is that we have very serious times.

    And these serious times calls for problem-solvers. That's the kind of leadership, I think, that is needed. Whenever you look at the threat of a third-party candidacy, I think that's the reason that Ronna McDaniel, head of the Republican National Committee, wants everybody who participates in the debate on the GOP side to sign a loyalty oath.

    Well, I don't think we need a loyalty oath, but I think it is important to say, if we're going to participate in a Republican debate, we're not going to run as a third-party candidate. And I think that's important for President Trump and any candidate to say if they're going to participate in that Republican nominating process.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Nikki Haley, as you know, who has announced her candidacy, was today calling for raising the retirement age for Americans currently in their 20s, and limiting Social Security benefits for wealthier Americans.

    As you know, there have been a number of proposals for how to address the coming crisis in Social Security across the aisle. Senators Warren and Sanders have said they can increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans and shore up Social Security.

    I'm curious. What are your thoughts on this? What are you proposing as a fix for Social Security?

  • Fmr. Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    We need to protect Social Security for our retirees who have paid into it. They have earned that payment in terms of the latter years of their life. And so that's important that we keep it sound and full of integrity, and that we don't start chopping it up.

    We have got to protect Social Security and Medicare. When you look at the long-term concerns about it, we have got to bring in more workers. We have got to be able to make some changes, probably, but it shouldn't be lowering their retirement age for all of the workers, because you think about the difference between somebody like me, who's worked at a white-collar job, I have been a lawyer, I have been in public service, vs. somebody who's worked in a factory.

    I don't think that lifting their retirement age, whenever their body can wear out on some of those tough manual labor jobs, is the right way.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    I want to ask you about some news out of Arkansas this week as well. The state Senate there, they have just passed what critics are calling the most extreme so-called bathroom bill that's targeting transgender people.

    It would essentially criminalize, say, a transgender parent taking their child into a public restroom. Would you support a bill like that?

  • Fmr. Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    I have not read that bill.

    But I did make sure that,whenever I was governor, we tried to have the right balance of giving people flexibility in their life, not overly mandating from the state perspective, and recognizing the parental role in terms of raising kids and the influence that they have over them.

    I do have hesitation about the criminal aspect of some of these penalties. But, again, I have not read that specific bill

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Governor, there's been over 150 similar bills from Republican-led legislatures targeting transgender people. We know that kind of rhetoric leads to real-world violence, can create mental health and emotional problems for trans youth.

    Why is this particular issue such a priority for Republicans right now?

  • Fmr. Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    Well, there's a great deal of concern about the children and their safety and their protection and in the schools and their influence.

    And you do have concerns about the influence of whether they're encouraged to move at that very young age and to consider a transgender change. This is a really extraordinary time that we're going through, that we're still learning more about science and more about why there's been such an increase in transgenderism across America.

    And so I think there's a pause button that people are trying to set and trying to draw the right lines. And so that's the reason for the debate, is simply trying to protect the knowledge of parents. For example, if a child says that he wants to change his gender, should a parent know about that? Absolutely. There should be that communication.

    And so I think that's why this is being looked at by legislators across the country now.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Governor, those same legislatures, though — you mentioned that the aim is to protect children.

    You know as well as I do the leading cause of death children in America right now is gun violence. And we don't see any Republican-led action on that.

  • Fmr. Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    Well, that we believe in the responsibility of gun owners. We believe in the responsibility of law enforcement to enforce the law.

    And whenever you look at our Second Amendment privileges, correct, Republicans are not passing laws further restricting the rights under our Constitution. But we certainly are concerned about violence in our society, and whether that is coming from the inner cities and prosecutors that don't believe in upholding the law, or judges that are releasing defendants on no bond, whenever they have got a series of criminal offenses in the past.

    Absolutely, these are serious concerns for legislators to address those crime issues, and particularly in our — in our inner cities, where we don't have good enforcement the law. That needs to change.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, we will be following you, as I know you're making a decision on whether or not to run.

    Please do come back when you have made that decision. Thank you for joining us.

  • Fmr. Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

    Thank you. Good to be with you.

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