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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Asa’s present, and future

by John Brummett | April 21, 2021 at 3:01 a.m.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson dropped down Sunday to do a local television news show, Talk Business and Politics.

For nearly a half-hour, he answered substantively host Roby Brock’s timely questions.

I’d like to see Sarah Huckabee Sanders go next.

Before mentioning that he’ll soon be starting two political organizations to advance positions and support candidates nationally in the midterm elections of 2022—his clearest action to date suggestive of a presidential interest or at least a desired national Republican prominence—the term-limited Hutchinson said that: He thinks this legislative session has been good for his policy agenda even as it has drawn negative national attention with culture-war bills he often found unnecessary and occasionally disagreed with.

We’re not the only conservative rural state passing culture-war bills, so we shouldn’t sustain particular national disfavor or economic reprisal.

We’ll know if the so-called hate-crimes bill, a finesse designed to get through the right-wing Legislature, is valid if and when an occasion arises when a prosecutor seeks to apply it by arguing that a crime was committed against a person because that person was a member of a group and the perpetrator should be required to serve 80 percent of the sentence. Several of those other state hate-crime laws don’t specifically protect sexual orientation and gender identity, he said correctly. But no one else avoids mentioning any victim group altogether.

He didn’t mind being called a weak RINO (Republican in name only) by Donald Trump because that’s what Trump does, and he continues to believe Trump did not serve the country well with his post-election rhetoric and behavior and should not be the party’s leader or nominee in 2024.

He intends to be but an interested spectator in the race to succeed him as governor in 2022. He declined to assess either of the Republican candidates, Sanders or Leslie Rutledge, which was probably appropriate, not to mention discreet, since my suspicion is he’s crazy about neither.

At the end, Brock brought up Hutchinson’s supposed presidential interest in the context of a direct question on what Asa intended to do after leaving the governor’s office after next year.

Hutchinson’s response, typically measured, was that he’d prefer to talk about his more immediate activity while continuing to serve out his gubernatorial term.

It’s to assume the chairmanship of the National Governors Association later this year, facilitating his leadership role in influencing national policy from the state level.

But, before that, and sometime soon after the legislative session mercifully ends, he intends to form two political organizations. One will be a direct PAC to make contributions to Republican candidates around the country. The other will be a 501(c)4 that he called “educational,” but which could spend money to advocate policy positions.

In a way, these are routine undertakings by a confirmed politician. But, in another way, they confirm that Hutchinson’s post-governorship eyes are cast nationally for some kind of role.

He told Brock that he sees an important political moment nationally unfolding—opposing the Democrats but doing so with a better Republican approach, one I happen to know he believes should be more moderate and pragmatic, best drawn, in fact, from the practicalities governors of both parties face day-to-day in running their states.

He declined to say he wasn’t interested in running for the presidency. He said there’s a lot to happen between now and then.

One more thing: Brock said I’d attempted to “bait” Hutchinson into saying he was running for president. But I’ve merely been observing and perceiving.

I confess, though, to being intrigued by the prospect of a big Republican battle royal in 2024 between Hutchinson and Tom Cotton, a political world series, if you will, pitting Rogers and Dardanelle.

I fear I have led Bubba McCoy and readers astray by advising him Sunday not to worry about stocking electric cars at his auto emporium because there wasn’t a charging station in 100 miles. A reader in Brinkley wrote to say she wasn’t clear on where Bubba was, but that there was a Tesla charging station there in the Pinecrest Shopping Center off Interstate 40 on U.S. 49 near the Kroger, the Waffle House, McDonald’s and the new Sonic. Bubba and his better half reside well within 100 miles of that.

—––––– –––––—

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] . Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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